New Zealand census

Forms that were intended for the (cancelled) 2011 census. To the left, the forms for individual persons surveyed; to the right, a form for the overall household. The 2013 census forms are identical, save for different 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 government department Statistics New Zealand every five years. There have been thirty-three 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 2018 census took place on Tuesday, 6 March 2018. The next census is expected in March 2023.[1]

Census date

Since 1926, the census has always been held on a Tuesday.[2] Since 1966, the census officially occurs at midnight on a Tuesday in March.[2] These are statistically the month and weekday on which New Zealanders are least likely to be travelling.

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.[3]

The smallest geographic unit used in the census for population data is the mesh block, which there are 39,300 of, with an average of 110 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 via the Internet 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]

Evasion of the census

A few people object to the census and attempt to evade it. The most famous of these 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 km territorial limit in order to avoid enumeration in the country. He has also publicly burnt census forms.[14]

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.[15]


Results of the 2013 census were released over an 18-month period, beginning 15 October 2013.[16] 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.[17]

Other Languages