Government and Fiscal Policy

2018 Census outputs delayed

Thursday July 19, 2018 Hugh Dixon

On the 10th July 2018 Statistics New Zealand announced that the first population and household count outputs of the 2018 Census would be delayed from October 2018 to March 2019, with a corresponding delay in the output of all other 2018 Census data releases.  This was unsurprising, given that Statistics New Zealand only closed off collection of Census data in May 2018, and the consequent announcement on 1 June 2018 that there was only a 90 percent response rate.


This delay is unfortunate, and no doubt will impact on proposed work programmes due to the importance of the Census to New Zealand as a rich source of information. 


Census information is heavily used for government decision making and funding. For example, the Ministry of Health uses it as part of the District Health Board (DHB) funding formulas to ensure DHB funding matches their population counts and population structure.  While DHB population numbers were likely to be available in May 2019, as they were released in May 2014 following the 2013 Census, new DHB population data may not be available until the end of 2019, meaning another 18 months of funding for DHBs based on 2013 Census counts.  In addition, the Ministry of Education uses Census data as part of determining the decile ratings of schools, and to help determine where the Ministry should build schools, expand schools, or close schools.


Census data is widely used, not only by central government but by local government, non-government organisations (NGOs), iwi, and private companies throughout New Zealand to help them with their investment decisions.  Delays in the Census outputs will mean that many investment decisions will also need to be deferred until 2018 Census data is available from mid-2019.


Whilst the delay to the 2018 Census outputs has been made to ensure that the data output is of the high quality, funding, investment, research and other decisions that were depending on using the 2018 Census data will now need to be delayed until this information is released.