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New Zealand census

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Forms that were intended for the (cancelled) 2011 census. At left, the forms for individual persons surveyed; at right, a form for the overall household. The 2013 census forms were identical, save for the dates.

The New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings (Māori: Te Tatauranga o ngā Tāngata Huri Noa i Aotearoa me ō rātou Whare Noho) is a national population and housing census conducted by Statistics New Zealand, a government department, every five years. There have been 34 censuses since 1851. In addition to providing detailed information about national demographics, the results of the census play an important part in the calculation of resource allocation to local service providers.

The 2023 census held on 7 March 2023 was the most recent, with the results being released from 29 May 2024 to August 2025.

Census date


Since 1926, the census has always been held on a Tuesday[1] and since 1966, the census always occurs in March.[1] These are statistically the month and weekday on which New Zealanders are least likely to be travelling. The census forms have to be returned by midnight on census day for them to be valid.

Conducting the census


Until 2018, census forms were hand-delivered by census workers during the lead-in to the census, with one form per person and a special form with questions about the dwelling. In addition, teams of census workers attempt to cover all hospitals, camp grounds, workplaces and transport systems where people might be found at midnight.

In 2018, the process was different. The majority of households received an access code in the post and were encouraged to complete their census online. If preferred, households could request paper census forms.[2]

The 2023 census could be completed online or on paper forms.[3] Forms with an access code were mailed out to householders from 20 February, but paper forms could be requested online or by telephone (free call 0800 CENSUS (0800 236–787)).

The smallest geographic unit used in the census for population data is the mesh block. There are 53,589 mesh blocks, with an average of 88 people in each.[4]

Data collected


The 2018 census collected data on the following topics:[5]

Population structure
  • Absentees
  • Age*
  • Legally registered relationship status
  • Name*
  • Number of children born
  • Partnership status in current relationship
  • Number of occupants on census night*
  • Sex*
  • Dwelling address*
  • Census night address*
  • Usual residence*
  • Usual residence one year ago
  • Years at usual residence
Culture and Identity
  • Birthplace
  • Ethnicity*
  • Iwi affiliation
  • Languages spoken
  • Māori descent*
  • Religious affiliation
  • Years since arrival in New Zealand
Education and training
  • Field of study
  • Highest qualification
  • Highest secondary school qualification
  • Level of post-school qualification
  • Study participation
  • Hours worked in employment per week
  • Industry
  • Occupation
  • Sector of ownership
  • Status in employment
  • Unpaid activities
  • Work and labour force status
  • Workplace address
  • Sources of personal income
  • Total personal income
Families and households
  • Child dependency status
  • Extended families
  • Family type
  • Household composition
  • Access to basic amenities
  • Access to telecommunication systems
  • Dwelling counts (occupied, unoccupied, under construction)
  • Dwelling dampness indicator
  • Dwelling mould indicator
  • Individual home ownership
  • Main types of heating
  • Number of rooms*
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Occupied dwelling type
  • Sector of landlord
  • Tenure of household*
  • Weekly rent paid by households
  • Education institution address
  • Main means of travel to education
  • Main means of travel to work
  • Number of motor vehicles
Health and disability
  • Cigarette smoking behaviour
  • Disability/activity limitations

* Required to be included under the Statistics Act 1975 or the Electoral Act 1993



The first full census in New Zealand was conducted in 1851, and the census was triennial until 1881, at which time it became five-yearly. The 1931 census was cancelled due to the effects of the Great Depression,[6] as was the 1941 census due to World War II.[7] The 1946 census was brought forward to Tuesday 25 September 1945, so that the results could be used for an electoral redistribution (the first for ten years) before the 1946 election.

1951 was the first year in which Māori and European New Zealanders were treated equally, with European New Zealanders having had a different census form in previous years and separate censuses in the nineteenth century. Results for those censuses before 1966 have been destroyed with a few exceptions and those since will not be available before 2066.[8]

The 2006 census was held on Tuesday, 7 March. For the first time, respondents had the option of completing their census form online rather than by a printed form.

The 2011 census was scheduled for Tuesday, 8 March. However, due to the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011, it was cancelled.[9] For the first time ever, all 2011 census forms would have been digitally archived.[10] On 27 May 2011 Statistics New Zealand announced that a census would take place in March 2013.[11] The legislation required to change the census date was introduced to Parliament in August 2011.[12]

The 2013 census was held on Tuesday 5 March 2013 and the 2018 census was held on Tuesday 6 March 2018.[13] The 2018 census faced wide criticism for low response rates, a poor rollout of the online component of the census and delays.[14][3] This resulted in an independent review of the census process, and the resignation of the then-Chief Executive of Statistics New Zealand Liz MacPherson.[15]

The 2023 census was held on Tuesday, 7 March (despite Statistics New Zealand initially not ruling out a delay due to the effects of Cyclone Gabrielle[16]), and it implemented measures that aimed to increase the census' effectiveness in response to the issues faced with the 2018 census, including supporting Māori to complete the census.[3][17] It also included new questions on topics such as gender, sexual identity, and disabilities/health conditions.[18]

Evasion of the census


A few people object to the census and attempt to evade it. As early as 1859, a resident was prosecuted for not completing his census form.[19] The most famous of these census evaders is The Wizard of New Zealand, Ian Brackenbury Channell, who has avoided the census on numerous occasions. He spent the night of the 1981 census in a boat beyond New Zealand's 20 kilometres (12 mi) territorial limit in order to avoid enumeration in the country. He has also publicly burnt census forms.[20]

Following the 2006 census, Statistics New Zealand prosecuted 72 people for failing to return their forms, with 41 convictions. After the 2013 census, they wrote to 450 people in July 2013 who had failed to return the forms, of whom 99 were prosecuted, resulting in 46 convictions. Most of those convicted faced two charges and were fined $50 to $500 per charge.[21]



In June 2024, allegations surfaced that workers and volunteers at Manuwera Marae had collected citizens' private information from 2023 census forms, creating a database to target Māori voters in the general election held later in 2023. Takutai Moana Kemp was the chief executive of the marae at the time and was also a candidate for Te Pāti Māori, later narrowly winning a seat at the 2023 general election.[22]



Results of the 2013 census were released over an 18-month period, beginning 15 October 2013.[23] It recorded 4,242,048 people who were resident in New Zealand on 5 March 2013. This represents an increase of 214,101 people (5.3 percent) since the 2006 census.[24]

Results from the 2018 census were released to the public on 23 September 2019.[25] The population of New Zealand was counted as 4,699,755 – an increase of 457,707 (10.79%) over the 2013 census.[26]

On 30 June 2023, the field collection phase of the 2023 census ended with an estimated 89–91% of the New Zealand population having participated. Results of the 2023 census will be released from May 2024 to August 2025, starting on 29 May 2024.[27]


  1. ^ a b "Dates of New Zealand censuses since 1851". Stats.govt.nz. Archived from the original on 16 November 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  2. ^ "How Can I Do It?". Stats NZ. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Fallon, Virginia (4 February 2023). "Census 2023 will do better, especially for Māori, Stats NZ says". Stuff. Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  4. ^ "ANZLIC Metadata 2018 Meshblock – GIS | | GIS Map Data Datafinder Geospatial Statistics | Stats NZ Geographic Data Service". datafinder.stats.govt.nz. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  5. ^ "2018 Census report on final content". Archived from the original on 6 August 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  6. ^ McRobie 1989, p. 91.
  7. ^ McRobie 1989, p. 95.
  8. ^ "New Zealand Genealogy". Genealogylinks.net. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Christchurch quake – census cancelled". 3 News. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  10. ^ "What happens to your census forms?". Statistics New Zealand. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  11. ^ "Census preparation underway". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  12. ^ "Duties of Statutory Officers (Census and Other Remedial Provisions) Bill (2011)". New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  13. ^ "2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Next Census date announced with new measures after poor 2018 turnout". 1 News. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  15. ^ "Government's top statistician resigns in wake of Census 2018 debacle". 1 News. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  16. ^ Pullar-Strecker, Tom (15 February 2023). "Stats NZ not ruling out delay to March 7 census due to cyclone". Stuff. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  17. ^ "Next Census date announced with new measures after poor 2018 turnout". 1 News. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  18. ^ "What is new about the 2023 Census". 2023 Census | Aotearoa New Zealand. Retrieved 18 February 2023.
  19. ^ "Resident Magistrate's Court". Daily Southern Cross. 1 February 1859. p. 3 – via Papers Past.
  20. ^ Fraser, R.; Hammond, M. (2008). Books Without Borders, Volume 1: The Cross-National Dimension in Print Culture. Springer. pp. 32–33. ISBN 9780230289116. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Refusal to complete census results in 46 convictions". Statistics New Zealand. Archived from the original on 9 October 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  22. ^ Vance, Andrea (2 June 2024). "Stats NZ investigating potential misuse of Māori census data". Sunday Star-Times. Retrieved 2 June 2024 – via The Post.
  23. ^ "2013 Census products and services release schedule". Statistics New Zealand. Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  24. ^ "2013 Census Usually Resident Population Counts". Statistics New Zealand. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  25. ^ "2018 Census population and dwelling counts". Stats NZ. 23 September 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  26. ^ "NZ population nears 5 million after fastest growth in 50 years". NZ Herald. 23 September 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  27. ^ "Results from 2023 Census available from May 2024". Stats NZ. 29 November 2023. Retrieved 12 May 2024.


  • McRobie, Alan (1989). Electoral Atlas of New Zealand. Wellington: GP Books. ISBN 0-477-01384-8.