Frequently asked questions

 About census forms | Sign language videoOther languages | Collection of your forms | After the census |

About the census

Can I still do my census?

If you still have completed forms to return, please call 0800 CENSUS (0800 236 787) and ask for a freepost envelope. If you have not received forms, call the 0800 number as soon as possible.

Or you can send your completed forms to us for free:

2013 Census  
Private Bag 208 040  
Auckland 2161

We are no longer accepting forms online.

What if I was overseas at census time?

If you were out of the country on census night you don't have to do anything.

What if I was not at home on census night?

If you were away from home but in New Zealand you will need to complete an individual form for the place you stayed on census night. You do not need to complete an individual form at your home.

Please do not fill in the forms delivered to your usual home. Give the blank forms to the collector when they call to collect them after the census and tell them where you were on census night.

Why was the 2011 Census cancelled?

The March 2011 Census was called off following the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The 2011 Census could not have been successfully completed given the national state of emergency and the probable impact on census results.

Why didn't you hold a census in 2012? 

We considered holding the next census in March 2012 but there was not enough time to restart the project, and the risk of not being able to be run a census properly in that short period of time was too high.

Why don’t you just wait until 2016? 

If we do not hold a census until 2016 there will be a huge hole in the data available for people and organisations that make key planning decisions, such as councils and government departments.

How much will it cost?

We estimate that the 2013 Census will cost $72 million. This is less than the $90 million budget for the 2011 Census because we can make use of much of the preparation we did for 2011. 

The value gained from a census far exceeds the cost of running it. Billions of dollars of government funding is allocated using census data.

When will the next census after 2013 be held?

Statistics NZ has a planning assumption that the date of the next census will be in 2018.

A business case for a proposed 2018 Census, along with an update on the census transformation work programme, will be presented to Cabinet in November 2013.

Is the census compulsory?

Yes. Filling in census forms is required by law. Under the Statistics Act 1975, everyone in New Zealand on census day must fill in a census form.

What if I refuse to take part in a census?

Filling in census forms is required by law. Under the Statistics Act 1975, everyone in New Zealand on census day must fill in a census form. You could be fined if you don't participate or if you provide false or incomplete information.

If legal action becomes necessary, the fine is up to $500, with a further $20 a day for each day after conviction until the person completes the forms.

The accuracy of the census depends on everyone in New Zealand filling in their forms and answering all questions that apply.

Our policy is to encourage you to comply with the law. As a last resort Statistics NZ may prosecute people who actively refuse to fill in their forms or provide false information.

Why can’t you get the information from other government departments?

Other government departments hold administrative records about people. But the census is especially valuable because it provides a new and accurate set of information every five years, about every part of the country, down to small geographic areas.

Statistics NZ is investigating alternative ways of meeting information needs for social and population statistics. Information papers about this work are available here.

How does Statistics NZ decide which questions to ask?

Several topics must, by law, be included in the New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings. Under the Statistics Act 1975 we are required to ask every person in New Zealand on census day for their: 

  • name and address 
  • sex 
  • age 
  • ethnicity.

For every occupied dwelling in New Zealand on census day we must ask for that dwelling's: 

  • location 
  • number of rooms 
  • ownership 
  • number of occupants on census night.

We collect information about Māori descent and the usual residence of all people living in New Zealand to help determine electorate boundaries (required under the Electoral Act 1993).

We include other topics because they produce information of significant value to New Zealand. We also have to consider other factors when deciding what questions we ask, such as: 

  • whether the census is the most appropriate method of collecting the information 
  • cost of collecting the data 
  • quality of the data produced 
  • public acceptability 
  • burden on the New Zealand public 
  • continuity with previous censuses.

Statistics NZ consults widely with the public about the questions asked in the census.

Have there been any changes to the questionnaires?

There are only minimal changes to the questionnaires from those used for the 2011 Census. You can see a copy of the 2013 Census forms and guide notes here.

More information

About census forms | Sign language videoOther languages | Collection of your forms | After the census |