Statistics NZ have announced that for the first time they’re seeking public input into what questions should be asked in the next census and have launched a discussion forum so people can have their say.
For the first time, New Zealanders are being encouraged to go online to say what they think should be asked in the next census, with a new online discussion forum on the Statistics NZ website.
The six-week discussion forum has been set up as part of wider consultation on the content of the 2018 New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings.
Census General Manager Denise McGregor says it is the first time Statistics NZ has engaged online about the census with the public.
“We know New Zealanders really care about what’s asked in the census, and the information they can get from it. This is part of a comprehensive review of the census, including how previous questions performed, a stocktake of what the data is used for, who uses it, and considering international trends.
“People can get in and respond to our initial recommendations and thinking, share their views, and discuss issues that matter to them with other Kiwis.”
Statistics NZ will be facilitating discussions, and will analyse emerging themes to help with making decisions on 2018 Census content. Factors such as statistical quality, and the length and complexity of the questionnaire will be taken into account before making any changes.
“The census needs to reflect the changing nature of society, and we have to balance that with being able to compare data over time and track trends.”
Statistics NZ is using the online forum to encourage a wide range of people to talk about the census ahead of the formal submission period.
“We will listen to suggestions raised in the online forums, but the best opportunity to influence census content is still to make a formal submission,” Denise McGregor said.
2018 Census has information about how to join the discussion or make a formal submission. The online discussion forum will be live until 10 June. People can make a formal submission from 18 May until 30 June.
Following consultation, Statistics NZ will analyse the submissions, and aims to confirm final content in early 2017 for the 2018 Census.
I think it’s good that they’re considering new ways to ensure the right questions are asked.
When it comes to transport we’ve long had issues with the data that is collected. At the last census the two questions related to transport were
- Individual – What was the one main way you travelled to work – that is, the one you used for the greatest distance?
- Dwelling – How many motor vehicles (not counting motorbikes) do the people who live here have available for their use?
We’ve previously highlighted some of what we consider to be issues with these questions and how they’re used, some of which are below
Main means of travel to work
While useful it ignores tens of thousands of trips for that are for education or other purposes. Particularly for education there’s a high likelihood that there will be a much higher share of non-car modes than there is for workers. Further as our transport system evolves I think there will become an increasing issue in only asking for the mode people travelled the longest on. This is because we’re increasingly going to see more multi-modal trips occurring thanks to developments like the New Network which will see an integrated network and many people transferring to complete their commutes. One other minor issue that is mostly unique to Auckland is that ferries are counted in the ‘other’ category and it would be useful to have that split out.
Number of motor vehicles
There’s not such an issue with what is collected but what it’s used for. Stats NZ feed the data into their Deprivation Index where they assume that households with fewer cars tend to be more deprived. That of course ignores that now in many places such as the City Centre, residents simply don’t need a car as they have many other options for getting around.
In their preliminary view Stats NZ acknowledge the issue of journey to education and are recommending it be considered to be added however in my view that still misses out trips for other purposes. They also suggest changing the question from the main means of travel to work on the day of the census to the usual means of travel to work. They say that it was intended to give a snapshot on transport volumes for a particular day but they note that many people now fill the form in early and in 2013, 46% completed the online form before Census day.
There’s more information on Stats NZ thoughts in the link above and you can also have your say in the online forum they’ve set up and I see there’s already some good discussion on these issues from some of our regular readers.
The actual census is three years away but it’s already fascinating to think how it will change. Between 2016 and 2013 we started to see some significant changes in mode-share and with the patronage growth we’re seeing and PT improvements planned those trends are likely to continue.