Photo: 2023 Census, Stats NZ

Pacific turnout concerns as Census deadline looms – Expert Reaction

More than a quarter of Pacific people in Aotearoa are yet to complete the Census, according to Stats NZ.

The overall census response rate is 86% so far, with final notices to be given to those who haven’t completed their forms by Tuesday 9 May, before fines of up to $2000 are given out.

The SMC previously gathered background on how Census data is used.

The SMC approached members of the Pacific Data Sovereignty Network for comment. 

Ivan Tava, Chair of the Pacific Data Sovereignty Committee, comments:

“Census 2018 did not reach enough Pacific people, and we don’t want that happening again this year.

“Pacific Data Sovereignty Network members acknowledge the engagement work of Statistics New Zealand, and the additional support that is being provided for Pacific communities to complete this year’s census, including assistance with filling in the forms and communication in Pacific languages.

“However, we note that it is important to learn from the lessons of COVID-19 vaccination and previous census collections, where high proportions of Pacific communities engaged because the approach was resourced in communities and led by trusted Pacific leaders.

“Our catch-phrase in the Network is ‘nothing about us without us’ – let’s make Census 2023 count for our Pacific families and communities”.

Conflict of interest statement: “The Pacific Data Sovereignty Network has been asked to support census collection and has a memorandum of understanding with Statistics New Zealand.”

Associate Professor El-Shadan Tautolo, Director of the AUT Pacific Health Research Centre, Auckland University of Technology, comments:

“We know that Pacific people want to contribute their voices, but there is so much going on in our communities right now. In some ways that makes completing the census this year both more difficult and more important. Relationships of trust and investment are required for Pacific communities to be able to prioritise census completion.”

Associate Professor Polly Atatoa Carr, Te Ngira the Institute for Population Studies, University of Waikato, comments:

“It is good that Statistics New Zealand is wanting to offer more support for Pacific communities to complete the census as the higher the response rates for Pacific people in the census, the better our services will be able to respond to Pacific needs.

“However, it is important that Statistics New Zealand makes sure that there is appropriate investment in Pacific communities to achieve the necessary Pacific census response rates so that we can avoid the challenges of 2018 and have robust and high quality data.”

Dr Seini Taufa, Research and Evaluation Lead, Moana Connect, comments:

“When Pacific communities are given the autonomy to do what they know works the result is reflected in the numbers responding. Devolving the funds allocated to lifting Pacific completion rates to the community and trusting that process is how we can make sure that the last couple of months available for census responses will really count.”