Iwi-led Census process in rohe makes big difference - Ngāti Wai Trust

By Contributor

By Ashleigh McCaull, RNZ

In a bid to boost Māori participation, Te Tai Rāwhiti, Te Tai Tokerau and Te Whānau-ā-Apanui have led the collection of Census information in their rohe.

The 2018 Census data was unusable after an extremely low turnout of 68.2 percent, forcing officials to find information in other data sets.

The Iwi Chairs Forum raised concerns about how it would affect the number of Māori seats in Parliament and funding for public services.

Te Kāhui Raraunga chair Rahui Papa said the new pilot programme should increase participation among Māori.

"Iwi and hapū will have the way, the means and the resources to go and collect the data for and on behalf of the country but actually with the analytics of iwi over the data themselves," Papa said.

"This is a brand new innovative initiative that will support and increase participation."

More options

Papa anticipated the 2028 census being even better for Māori.

In 2018, former chief statistician Liz MacPherson resigned after admitting there was too much focus on the digital-first approach and little focus on those who lived in rural communities.

"Last time there was a particular way of doing it. This time you can simply do it on your phone or your iPad or your computer," Papa said.

"There are so many more options and the connectivity was an issue last time especially for our rural whānau but that has been sort of placated by offering wifi internet access in various places around especially in more rural communities.

"With iwi actually collecting their own data, then it makes it a way more comfortable collection rather than people not from the communities just rocking up door to door with those types of census information sheets."

Cyclone-hit areas

Some of these communities had been hit hard by Cyclone Gabrielle.

"I think there may be issues particularly within Te Tai Rāwhiti and the Ngāti Kahungunu area or the eastern seaboard that's been hit... severely by cyclone Gabrielle."

"But we are trying to go through the data ILG making contact with those to make sure any support that is required like if there is any sort of elongated process for them to make it that little bit easier. Or any access to wifi and internet."

Ngāti Wai was part of the pilot and working alongside Census NZ.

Ngāti Wai Trust chief executive Huhana Lyndon said having iwi lead the process in their rohe made a huge difference.

"We're working in the local kāinga to provide opportunities for our whānau to come into our marae and to work alongside the team to complete the census forms together. That whanaungatanga element but also we've got online as well as on-paper opportunity," Lyndon said.

Whānaua filling out forms

Many whānau were completing forms online together, as whānau, she said.

Despite the area being rurally isolated, Lyndon wanted to see people going i to whānau homes and sitting with them as they completed their forms.

"We don't want to just see the papers dropped off at the doorstep and then the collector comes back. We want to go into the kāinga, we want to encourage participation and then completion of the forms."

So far more than one million people have filled in their details ahead of Census day on Tuesday.