Census failures and political accusations

The 2018 census has been a bit of a disaster, with the first use of extensive online responses, and a large reduction on the number of people who took part. This had led to significant delays in releasing what data they have gathered as Stats NZ has been doing what they can to fill the gaps in data.

The problems may impact on things like health funding, education planning and electoral boundary fixing.

And political accusations are flying, with National blaming the Minister of Statistics James Shaw, and Shaw and PM Jacinda Ardern blaming the last National government for underfunding the budget.

But this has been questioned – the 2013 census budget was $72 million, while the 2018 census budget was $117 million.

Planning for the census started while National were still in Government, but the actual census was done after Labour-Greens-NZ First took over.

RNZ – Census 2018: Stats NZ sets September release for ‘robust’ data

Stats NZ says it has plugged enough of the gaps in last year’s census to be able to start releasing data from September, but some data – including iwi statistics – are too incomplete to be regarded as official statistics.

Using a methodology that combines 89 percent of real census data and 11 percent of other government administrative data, Stats NZ said it now had records for 4.7 million people in the dataset.

In a statement, government statistician Liz MacPherson said the data now met the quality criteria for population structure information, meaning it could be used for planning, population-based funding for DHBs, and electorate boundaries.

“This means Stats NZ will use 2018 Census data to update the official population estimates and projections that many organisations use for their planning,” Ms MacPherson said.

Earlier this month, Ms MacPherson admitted that nearly one in seven people did not complete the census. The low response rate has delayed the data release twice.

“The release of data has been delayed twice because of the complex and careful work required to lift the quality of the census dataset,” Ms MacPherson said.

She said she wanted to make it clear this dataset was reliable, robust, and based on maths, not guesswork.

While government records helped to fill in gaps, Stats NZ said it could not be used for all the census topics and as a result some data might not be released as official statistics.

Newsroom:  Māori miss out in Census 2018

Data relating to iwi affiliation, for example, will not be available for the 2018 Census.

A lack of iwi affiliation data could have an impact on Treaty settlements.

A Te Arawhiti spokesperson told Newsroom it used iwi affiliation to build understanding of the groups it was negotiating with and to create regional profiles and help the public sector with iwi information.

The data was also a “secondary” factor the Crown considered when developing its Treaty settlement offers.

The spokesperson said Te Arawhiti would work with Statistics NZ and iwi to gather the best usable data from 2018.

Data on Māori ethnicity had been collected accurately, and would be able to be used – just not at the level of iwi.

The Government has announced extra funding, and has slammed the last Government for cutting funding.

James Shaw:  Stats Minister confirms funding for Census fix

Extra funding has been confirmed in this year’s Budget to fix issues arising from the 2018 Census and to ensure the next one is the best it can be, the Minister of Statistics announced today.

“Stats NZ has now confirmed it will provide reliable, quality 2018 census data to calculate how many electorates will be needed for next year’s General Election and to revise electorate boundaries where necessary,” James Shaw said.

“It had to delay other work and re-allocate funds to do it.  As a result there’s a shortfall of $5.76 million needed to complete the delayed work, and that’s being covered in this year’s Budget,” James Shaw said.

“There’s also Budget approval this year of $10.36 million to enable Stats NZ to get ahead of the next census. The money will develop the business case for the 2023 Census and start development work on it.

“The previous National-led Government decided to shift the Census to a mostly online survey and, at the same time, directed Stats NZ to cut costs over two census cycles,” Mr Shaw said.

Moving to a mostly online survey has been contentious. It appears that not enough effort was put into making it easy for people to still do it offline.

But the cost cutting accusations have been challenged.

The way data was collated was changing, and that rate of change is being accelerated.

Newsroom:  Annual census could replace five-year form-filling

The five-yearly national census could become an annual affair as the official statistics agency uses more of the data constantly collected by government agencies rather than rely on declining response rates from individual citizens.

The agency had been testing and refining models for use of administrative data for seven years already. It had intended to use an increasing amount of such data from the 2023 census onwards and instead accelerated its modelling processes to create a statistically robust 2018 census result, McPherson said.

Some 1.2 percent fewer people participated in the census than anticipated. Data gaps left by people not completely filling in their forms meant partial information equivalent to around 500,000 citizens was drawn from administrative data sources rather than census forms filled in on census night, March 6 last year.

“The team at Stats NZ has risen to the challenge and delivered a new way of confidently combining the strengths of census and administrative records to create the 2018 census dataset.

“There are now records for approximately 4.7 million people in the census dataset. The number of records is 1.2 percent, or 58,000 people, less than our best estimate of the population on Census Day 6 March 2018. In 2013, the official census undercount was 2.4 percent, or 103,800 people.

McPherson said the 2018 data was robust enough to allow the re-setting of electoral boundaries for the 2020 election and the population funding models used by public hospitals to determine their budgets, contrary to speculation from critics of the census process.

Change was inevitable. The transition seems to have been stuffed up.

 

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40 Comments

  1. David

     /  30th April 2019

    Shaw was in charge for 4 months prior to the census and he has been in charge for 12 months since. It was his responsibility to make sure it was ready to go on census day and it was definitely his job when the results were sub optimal to fix it.

    Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  30th April 2019

      If things had been done and funded properly under National there would not have been a mess to clean up

      Reply
      • David

         /  30th April 2019

        There was an increase in funding, Shaw had 4 months to check everything was on track. He could have delayed it better organized it, made sure it was going to work and he could have addressed the non compliance issue in numerous ways but did jackshit..like his fellow cabinet ministers in their portfokiis

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  30th April 2019

          Pretty sure if you dig in to history you’ll find several of National’s crew of Ministers faced with departmentally delivered disasters who were accused of doing jackshit in their portfokiis.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  30th April 2019

            Novopay & meth testing spring to mind.

            Reply
          • David

             /  30th April 2019

            No doubt but this cabinet is pretty average all round. Cant think of one who has delivered anything yet.

            Reply
            • duperez

               /  30th April 2019

              Yes at the end of October Shaw got the job, yes the census was at the beginning of March.

              Yes he had time to check everything was fine and had time to delay it for however long.

              If it was such a cock-up, how could it be that some Johnny-come-lately like him could come in and recognise it for what it was, yet no-one else could and then do something about it? Maybe he should have lined the boss up before Christmas, said “pleased to meet you. your work is crap, you’ve spent years on it, start again. Cancel Christmas/New Year leave for your staff.”

              Or over the Christmas break should he have decided that years of work wasn’t good enough and decided unilaterally that it had to be shelved and done months or a year down the track?

              If he’d ridden in on his high horse and said the processes were crap and doomed to failure, the work shoddy, would people (like you) have ranted about the arrogance of some Johnny-come-lately novice coming in and carried away by the power of office discarded the brilliant work of his brilliant predecessors?

              The ex-Ministers have been very quiet, no doubt not wanting to be associated with the topic, Nick Smith’s had his ‘look at me’ moments and now this week, (drum roll) Jian Yang gets to carry the Opposition’s attack. While embarrassment removes the key players, other foot soldiers will front for them in forums like this.

              I suppose if the cabinet is pretty average all round they have expect pretty average attacks on them.

            • Duker

               /  30th April 2019

              Its unlawful for the Minster to tell the Chief Statistician what to do
              “Yes he had time to check everything was fine and had time to delay it for however long.”
              You are dreaming if you think ‘they check everything was fine”

              Did you say that the “minister in charge of coal mining inspectors ‘had time to check everything was fine before coal mining began at Pike River under national. ?
              Did you say the Minister of conservative ‘had time to check everything was OK’ when her department built the Cave Cr viewing platform that collapsed killing more than a dozen?

        • Patzcuaro

           /  30th April 2019

          About the only thing Shaw could have done is delayed it for a year, the rest is more in the hands of the bureaucrats. Are you suggesting things would have been different if National was still in power?

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  30th April 2019

            No . The whole point is to do full census on regular fixed cycles. Only previous delay was because Christchurch earthquake happened 2 weeks before 2011 census and the HQ was in christchurch

            Reply
        • lurcher1948

           /  30th April 2019

          Its ALLWAYS anyone other than Nationals fault,the right never ever cop the blame

          Reply
    • Steps ARE being taken to fix it. He like any Minister with no expertise would have had to rely on the advice from his departmental experts & they clearly weren’t likely to be telling him this is going be a screw up. I’m no fan of Shaw, but be fair, David. The genesis of this disaster occurred under National & any first online census had to carry some risks of the unknown. Door-knocking & checking on collection is the probably still the best way to get high compliance & completion rates.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  30th April 2019

      Stats minister is forbidden by legislation to interfere in any part of how the census/statistics is done.
      The budget was done and dusted when he became minister.
      15 Independence of Government Statistician
      (1) The Statistician shall have the sole responsibility for deciding the procedures and methods employed in the provision of any statistics produced or to be produced by the Statistician, and shall also have the sole responsibility for deciding the extent, form, and timing of publication of those statistics.

      Statistics Act 1975

      Interfering in the Census once, its all decided on how its done, would be like the Minister of Police telling the Commissioner of Police to stop or start doing something specific

      Reply
      • David

         /  30th April 2019

        That is the most ridiculous thing ever posted here.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  30th April 2019

          Its true . You are the one who has a primary school view on how the government works. Ministers job is on Policy, legislation and budget and are supposed to be at arms length from most departments but not all details
          Some like Stats and Police have and absolute independence. Other like Corrections and Immigration they have legislation which gives ministers considerable ability to ‘give orders’ on specific matters.

          Suprised you are learning something David ? Expand your small mind by reading it
          Statistics Act 1975
          http://legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1975/0001/37.0/whole.html#DLM430776

          Reply
  2. Reply
  3. Blazer

     /  30th April 2019

    it has been recognised that the Nats laid the foundations for this fuck up.

    Reply
    • alloytoo

       /  30th April 2019

      What? By Increasing their budget by 56%.

      By this logic slashing the welfare and health budgets will solve child poverty and illness.

      Reply
    • duperez

       /  30th April 2019

      People disagree with you saying that the Nats laid the foundations for this fuck up.

      There were Ministers Craig Foss, Mark Mitchell, Scott Simpson in the period after the 2013 census before Shaw took over.

      Shaw took over less than 16 weeks before the census, a census which was significantly different than those in the past because of the use of technology. Between them, Shaw’s predecessors had about 240 weeks to establish the foundations of the exercise and oversee the operation of an organisation which would successfully carry out its role.

      You should not have said the Nats laid the foundations for this fuck up – it didn’t need to be said – it is so self-evident. Maybe the downticking is because you said “it has been recognised…” and people think it hasn’t ben recognised and the credit gone where it’s due.

      Reply
    • lurcher1948

       /  30th April 2019

      It is almost like the stupidity of putting Simon Bridges as their leader.

      Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  30th April 2019

    The census is full of crap. Its only justification is to count the population. It should go back to doing just that and only that.

    Shaw is undoubtedly a hapless incompetent but is not the only one involved.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  30th April 2019

      How can it be Shaws fault. The Chief Statistician is like the Commissioner of Police has absolute independence as part of legislation.
      The reality is he has no say in how they do any of their stats work.
      The real problem lies with the public service rotation of unqualified people into senior roles, the Chief Statisician had a career in Consumer Affairs, and probably the senior staff few had a stats background

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  30th April 2019

        Yup. Had a series of restructurings in my old department that dumped a series of completely unprepared CEO’s who recruited equally irrelevant & ignorant people into the Senior Management Groups on the apparent prevailing SSC theory that “new blood” & getting rid of the “hidebound, old fashioned” managers with departmental “ground up + management training” was necessary to “revitalise” & “reorganise” departments & thus achieve better “value for money” for the politicians in power who are constantly demanding it.

        Results: Decades of confusion within organisations. Wastage of money you wouldn’t believe. Reductions in services. Reductions in staff, sometimes beyond public safety levels. Disasters that killed people. Shambles.

        Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  30th April 2019

        It’s Shaw’s job to make sure problems are identified and fixed.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  30th April 2019

          Possibly you missed this?

          Extra funding has been confirmed in this year’s Budget to fix issues arising from the 2018 Census and to ensure the next one is the best it can be, the Minister of Statistics announced today.

          “Stats NZ has now confirmed it will provide reliable, quality 2018 census data to calculate how many electorates will be needed for next year’s General Election and to revise electorate boundaries where necessary,” James Shaw said.

          “It had to delay other work and re-allocate funds to do it. As a result there’s a shortfall of $5.76 million needed to complete the delayed work, and that’s being covered in this year’s Budget,” James Shaw said.

          “There’s also Budget approval this year of $10.36 million to enable Stats NZ to get ahead of the next census. The money will develop the business case for the 2023 Census and start development work on it.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  30th April 2019

            The census doesn’t need a business case or more money. It needs pruning down to fundamentals. At present it is just a gravy train for do nothings.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  30th April 2019

              Why not email James? He may not realise.

            • Duker

               /  30th April 2019

              House flippers think like that Its the old ACT party nostrums from a decade ago. Then they discovered like Social Credit their ideas didnt work. The GFC upturned all the economic theories on money supply , inflation and government spending.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  30th April 2019

              Spoken like a true bureaucratic do nothing.

              What theory exactly got overturned?

            • Gezza

               /  30th April 2019

              Why are you wasting time arguing with Duker, Al?
              Shouldn’t you get that email off to James first?
              Then you could argue with Duker.
              James may have no idea what you say is needed. The Department won’t tell him.

            • duker

               /  30th April 2019

              Overturned . Increased Government borrowing and spending raises interest rates for everyone else.
              Overturned . printing money causes run away general inflation.

              ALL WRONG WRONG

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  30th April 2019

              Who got the Nobel Prize for these “discoveries”? When did the RBNZ abandon its inflation target in favour of printing money? How come the CoL pledged not to go on a borrowing/spending spree?

              You talk a load of crap, Duker.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  30th April 2019

            Shaw is a do nothing figurehead. Emailing him is a complete waste of time. He’ll have all the taxpayer-teat-suckers buttering him up and telling him how important his department is to them which he’ll lap up.

            Reply
  5. Corky

     /  30th April 2019

    Mikey applied the hurt to James Shaw this morning. Damn, James had to scramble for spin.

    ”The five-yearly national census could become an annual affair.”

    That’s a worry. It gives the government a model to use for tracking and punishing dissenters. They get to practice each year. Such a model could then be transposed to other situations of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is an increasing problem for all governments across the world. America would be the only Western country ready for major civil unrest. They have internment camps scattered across the nation.

    I personally don’t waste my time with the census.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  30th April 2019

      This is where door-knocking, & if necessary coming back later with police & a sniffer dog, might help raise the completion rates?

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  30th April 2019

        You bet. They won’t be wasting money on an annual census without getting their moneys worth. They will expect full participation and will prosecute to get it.

        https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12220625

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  30th April 2019

          One is legally obliged to complete a census form, so if you have got away with not doing it as you claim, don’t expect to do so forever. I was a census worker and we had to go back to so many times to houses where nobody was at home. If people refused to fill a form, we had to report this and something was done about it. They would be fined. The fine now is up to $500; hardly worth it for not doing a census form.

          Reply
  6. NOEL

     /  30th April 2019

    So no questioning if data is robust enough for the DHB and Education Department etc to future plan.
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/110559481/national-say-2020-election-data-based-on-guesswork

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  30th April 2019

      Yes National doesnt want the new census data to be applied to electorates as its likely they will lose electorate seats.
      They normally make sure its gerrymander to move boundaries to favour them.
      Eg last time boundaries redrawn Hutt electorate lost area in Nae Nae but gained area from Ohariu. Farrar normally runs the US supplied computer software for national which analyses census information by mesh blocks and comes up with various scenarios when boundarys are shifted. gerrymandering occurs in democratic states too, but they are already 60-65% democratic vote like Maryland or Massachsets- a seat or two doesnt make much difference.
      GOP takes states like North Carolina and Wisconsin which maybe 55% republican and gerrymanders them to 70%+ republican in seats.

      NZ seats are allowed a 5% leeway to start with so higher accuracy on poulation doesnt make it more useful. Then MMP with the second nationwide party vote means the total seats for a party arent dependent on small boundary changes. But The Nats having the most electorates means someone will missi out.

      The real answer is to increase the total seats by say 2 to account for extra population rather than redraw all the boundaries ( most outside Auckland and Bay Plenty- Waikato will get bigger, a few much bigger as their pop is static)

      Reply
  1. Census failures and political accusations — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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