Time to count Kiwis

February 16, 2013

The delivery of census forms starts today.

New Zealand is gearing up for the largest government-run activity this year, the Census on March 5th.

 Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson says more than 7,000 census collectors will from tomorrow start delivering census forms to every home.

 “Included with forms is an internet access code for people to complete them online, which is a secure, quick and easy option.

 “The Government has set 10 Better Public Services results, including, New Zealanders can complete their transactions with the Government easily in a digital environment. The 2013 Census is an example of how we are doing that by making it easy for people to take part in this important event online.”

 Statistics New Zealand expects more than two million census forms will be completed online on Census day.

“If everyone in a household completes forms online then the census collector will receive a text saying they don’t have to return that address to collect them,” Mr Williamson says.

Official census collectors will be wearing a yellow identification badge and carrying a blue census bag.

The 0800 CENSUS helpline is also ready to take calls from the public.

The census is designed to count us all, but count us as what?

It’s entered the 21st century with the ability for people to complete the forms online.

But it’s still stuck in the 20th century with the options under ethnicity.

Ethnicity is defined as  a measure of cultural affiliation, as opposed to race, ancestry, nationality or citizenship. 

An ethnic group is made up of people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • a common proper name 
  • one or more elements of common culture which need not be specified, but may include religion, customs, or language
  • unique community of interests, feelings, and actions
  •  a shared sense of common origins or ancestry 
  • a common geographic origin.

But the options given are are New Zealand European, Maori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian, Other such as Dutch, Japanese, Tokelauan.

This suggests that people of Maori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian and all sorts of other descent aren’t ethnic New Zealanders  which is divisive and does not reflect our multicultural society.

If it’s  ethnicity not race they’re measuring, why are the only people who count as Kiwis, European New Zealanders or those who choose New Zealander in the other category.

It is high time our statistics moved into the 21st century and gave New Zealander as a proper option rather than an afterthought.

If enough of us choose that option it might force a change for the next census.


Census miscounts NZers still

January 9, 2013

The census, which was cancelled in 2011 after the February earthquake in Christchurch, is taking place in a couple of months.

It will be very like the 2006 one which allowed us to  choose New Zealander as our ethnicity, but only in the other category.

A review of the official ethnicity statistical standard was initiated by Statistics NZ in 2008, after ‘New Zealander’ responses in the last census rose to 11.1 percent, from 2.4 percent in 2001. The scope of the review was wider than census but was used in conjunction with the census cognitive testing and research programme in decision-making for the 2011 Census. For more information about the research completed by the review and what this involved, see the Final Report of a Review of the Official Ethnicity Statistical Standard 2009.

In the review, most key users of census data stated that the format of the census ethnicity question should remain unchanged. They emphasised the importance of consistency in statistics across the Official Statistics System and the comparability of the ethnicity measure over time. These views reflect concerns that even a minor change in a questionnaire’s format can have unintended but significant impacts on responses and subsequent statistical outputs.
Some submissions to the review expressed a desire for greater visibility for ‘New Zealander’ responses. As with outputs from the 2006 Census, this will be done by having ‘New Zealander’ as a separate category (under ‘Other’) in several of the 2011 Census outputs. For an example of how ‘New Zealander’ responses in the 2006 Census were output, see QuickStats About a Place on the Statistics NZ website.   . .

The importance of consistency is obvious if those who use statistics are to be able to make comparisons between one census and another.

But some things change and cultural identity is one of those.

My mother used to refer to Britain as Home, even before she’d been there. That wasn’t uncommon for her generation and they probably didn’t think twice about claiming European ethnicity.

That is no longer the case for most of us.

Although, when you look at the definition of ethnicity, I’m not sure it ever really was:

Ethnicity refers to the ethnic group or groups that people identify with or feel they belong to. Ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation, as opposed to race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship. Ethnicity is self-perceived and people can affiliate with more than one ethnic group.

An ethnic group is made up of people who have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • a common proper name 
  • one or more elements of common culture which need not be specified, but may include religion, customs, or language
  • unique community of interests, feelings, and actions
  •  a shared sense of common origins or ancestry 
  • a common geographic origin.

If ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation, as opposed to race, ancestry, nationality or citizenship why are the choices for ethnicity New Zealand European, Maori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian, Other such as Dutch, Japanese, Tokelauan?

All of those seem to owe at least as much to race, ancestry, nationality or citizenship as they do to culture.

If some of us are supposed to be European New Zealanders, which particular European culture are we affiliated to?

I like Spain and its culture, I lived there for three months and have been back three times since then. But I couldn’t claim to have Spanish ethnicity and have even less connection to the many other European cultures.

Given the diversity of Europe it would be difficult to claim a cultural connection to it as a whole. If I identify with any culture outside New Zealand it would be, thanks to my tartan gene, the Scottish one. Scotland is now, thanks to EU membership politically aligned to Europe but that is very different from cultural affiliation.

The form acknowledges this by giving Dutch as an example under other.

Why do only those who regard themselves as having a European cultural affiliation get to claim to be New Zealanders?

It suggests that it isn’t culture but skin colour which matters.

It’s discriminatory and insulting that people of Maori, Samoan, Cook Island Maori, Tongan, Niuean, Chinese, Indian or any other descent don’t count as New Zealanders except under other.

I have a great niece and great nephew born here whose father is a Kiwi and mother is Argentinean. They are too young to define their cultural affiliation now but I am quite sure it wouldn’t be European.

The more I travel the more I am aware of New Zealand culture which includes elements of different cultures and races but which transcends them, recognises what we have in common and unites us as New Zealanders.

Consistency is important in censuses but so too is accuracy and the ethnic category is no longer accurate for our multi-cultural country.

The Australian census has New Zealander as an ethnic category.

It’s more than time we did too, recognising  New Zealander as category and not lost as a footnote among the others.


Enrolment stats

July 5, 2012

Political tragics might be interested in the Electoral Commission’s enrolment statistics.

They compare the estimated population of eligible voters with those enrolled for the whole of the country with a breakdown by age:

Links below the graph take you to figures for individual electorates.

These figures are estimated for people 18 and older, not total population which is used for determining electorate boundaries.

Electorate size is calculated by dividing the total South Island population by 16. That number determines the number of people in each electorate with a 5% tolerance over or under that figure. The North Island is then divided into areas with a similar number of people, plus or minus 5%.

Last time boundaries were changed – in 2007 – the population of South Island electorates was 57,562 plus or minus 2,878 and in the North Island 57,243 plus or minus 2,862.

Boundaries are usually calculated every five years, after a census. Last year’s census was postponed because of Christchurch’s February earthquake, it will take place next March. The Boundaries Commission will then do its work.

Political parties will have to hold special general meetings in any new electorates or existing ones which undergo major boundary changes. There will be a degree of urgency about that so they can select candidates in plenty of time for the 2014 election.


Dalziel not ruling out mayoralty bid

November 30, 2011

Quelle surprise – Labour MP Lianne Dalziel isn’t ruling out moving from central government to local government.

Dalziel said yesterday there were no guarantees the seat would remain within its current boundaries, or even exist, after the March 2013 census.

“I will stay full term but I’m not going to rule out going for the mayoralty because I don’t know what’s going to happen to the boundaries,” she said.

“I’m committed to serving my electorate for the next three years.

“I’m not going to retire from politics early and I will announce if I’m going to stand at the following election when we have the details of the new boundaries. That won’t be until the census has been taken.”

This is not unexpected, there’s been speculation that she would swap a seat in parliament for the Christchurch mayor’s chair for some time.

But what if the boundaries don’t change in the next three years?

The census was supposed to have taken place this year which would have left plenty of time for boundary changes to be worked out before the 2014 election.

But the postponement to 2013 would put pressure on the boundary setting process and even more on parties which wouldn’t be able to begin selecting candidates until the new boundaries were settled.

Parties usually start preparing for candidate selection early in the year before the election which is the year of the next census.

It would be at least the end of that year before boundary changes were confirmed, less than 12 months before the next election.

That doesn’t give parties much time to set up electorate structures, hold the special general meetings needed to form new electorates then select candidates.

The census was postponed because of the earthquake, it might be better to postpone the boundary changes too so they don’t take effect until the 2017 election.


Census on hold

February 25, 2011

Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson and  and Government Statistician Geoff Bascand have announced that the census which was due to be held on March 8 has been called off.

The decision has been made after extensive consultation.

“This is not the time to go door to door asking New Zealanders for information when they’re dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake,” Mr Williamson said.

“It’s unthinkable that we would ask this of people. It would be an unfair burden and distraction at a time when they are grieving.”

There has been extensive damage to Statistics New Zealand buildings with significant impacts on census staff.

Mr Bascand said he acknowledges the decision will have consequences for people who use the census data in their work.

“We will now investigate the feasibility of alternative options,” Mr Bascand said.

This is a sensible decision but not one without consequences.

Among those will be the re-drawing of electorate boundaries which is carried out after each 6- 5 yearly census.


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