StatsNZ to do a better job to collect iwi data after 'failed' Census

By Jessica Tyson

StatsNZ have admitted their mistakes in the way they tried to collect iwi data for the 2018 Census, and will be working with iwi to do a better job.

It comes after StatsNZ were accused by the Māori Data Sovereignty Network, Te Mana Raraunga, of not meeting their Treaty obligations by failing to produce official iwi affiliation data from the 2018 Census.

StatsNZ Government Statistician Liz MacPherson says the organisation decided not to publish official iwi affiliation data due to the lack of Māori response rates.

“I deeply regret the low response rates for Māori and Pacific people. We should have done much better,” MacPherson says.

The collection response rate for Māori was around 68 percent compared to 88.5 per cent in 2013.

“I agree with Te Mana Raraunga that the Māori and Pacific response rates from the last census were unacceptable. The 2018 Census clearly didn’t work for Māori and Pacific communities, in particular, and for that I apologise.”

A “huge blow” to iwi development

Te Mana Raraunga spokesperson Andrew Sporle says the lack of iwi affiliation data in the 2018 Census is a huge blow to iwi development and any iwi in the Treaty claim process.

“It’s one of the fundamental pieces of information that determines the quantum for settlements he says, he says.

“Having that lack of information is going to be a real setback for some iwi who are intending to use the 2018 census data to start planning programmes and services and interventions, policies to develop their own people.”  

The solutions

MacPherson says StatsNZ plans to work alongside iwi to ensure response rates are much higher in the next Census in 2023.

“We’ve already had some iwi who have said ‘What about us helping to collect’. We’ve had the Māori Council say ‘What about having Māori wardens working with you’. It’s about having all of the networks available to us to ensure that we truly have a census that iwi Māori feel comfortable with.”

She says the Iwi Chairs Forum also expects StatsNZ and other government departments to be collecting iwi affiliation data so that it can be used effectively.

“I’m now working across the government to look at other ways that we can collect iwi affiliation data through birth registration data, from a health perspective, and once we've got that information we can then combine it as the same way we have with other administrative data, so that we can tell a story about iwi affiliation.”

MacPherson says StatsNZ is also in conversation with Māori organisations to find ways to work even deeper into Māori communities.

“We might be going into a household with people from that community, in that rohe, from that area, so that they know the person who is turning up on their doorstep.”

Administrative data used to fill the gaps

Despite the lack of Māori involvement in the 2018 Census, Te Mana Raraunga has acknowledged it to be the most accurate on capturing the general Māori population.

This is because StatsNZ used administrative data to fill the missing gaps such as birth records, death records, tax records and migration records, to reach a high interim coverage rate of about 96 percent for Māori.

“While filling the gaps has worked well, there remains an underlying problem with our reach into these communities and we will need to work more closely with them to address this, says MacPherson.

“We know that there were some areas in Northland for example and other remote areas where the online capacity isn’t as good or people just simply didn’t want to do it, or didn’t have the ability to do it, or we just simply didn’t make it easier enough.”

More data from the census is expected to be rolled out in coming months.