The census disaster gets worse

Stats NZ released:

Work on the first release of 2018 data is taking longer than expected due to the complex nature of the task, Stats NZ said today.

Stats NZ had previously reported that they had full or partial information for around 90 percent of individuals and indicated further analysis would be required that would delay the first release.

“We now know this is going to take us a bit longer, but by April 2019 we will be able to announce when census data will be available,” Government Statistician Liz MacPherson said.

This is such a huge fail by Stats NZ, an agency that normally is a performing one. The census is the most important data collection object they do, and they missed out on 450,000 New Zealanders.

Normally we get census data no later than six months after the census. What Stats NZ has said is that we have to wait 12 months to even be told a date on which they will start releasing data. That date might be another six or nine months down the track from there.

This may have constitutional implications.

The electoral boundaries are meant to be reviewed every five years and should be reviewed before the 2020 election. Final boundaries get determined within six months of Stats NZ providing current electoral populations based on the census data.

This would normally have been September 2018, so we'd have new boundaries by March 2019 – well before the election.

If Stats NZ can't release census data before say December 2019, then we'd have final boundaries in June 2020. That would be a disaster. Selections would have occurred by then. You can't change boundaries just three months before an election. would probably have to legislate to delay the new boundaries until after the 2020 election.

Ideally new boundaries should be finalised before election year. That means Stats NZ really needs to get the data out by June 2019. Any later than that and it will create a real headache for the boundaries review.

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