Party rebels over 'intrusive' Census

By Mike Dinsdale

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A political party is urging Northlanders opposed to the "coercive nature" of the Census to take part in mass civil disobedience and destroy their Census forms in protest.

But anybody who takes the advice of the Libertarianz Party to indulge in "burning, shredding, defacing or ignoring" the Census form sent out by Statistics NZ could find themselves facing a $500 fine, with another $20 for each day they fail to comply.

Libertarianz Northland coordinator Helen Hughes will be holding a party on Census day - March 5 - to "responsibly" destroy her form with others opposed to the information gathering exercise.

Ms Hughes admits it's exhorting people to take part in a mass form of civil disobedience, but said many didn't like the intrusive nature of the Census and don't trust the Government.

"Nobody should destroy their [census] forms unless they know what they are protesting against. Yes, it's urging people to break the law, but when the law is wrong then protest is absolutely necessary."

She said she and the party were opposed to more government intervention and saw the Census as a benign way of brainwashing people into giving up private information.

"We want less government, less interfering with our lives, less stealing through taxes and you are not often able to do anything about the government having to much control, but you can by destroying your Census form."

Ms Hughes said when the government "broke its contract" by introducing another lifetime driving licence in the 1990s she burnt hers, taking the matter to the courts.

"I'm against the growing interference by government and this Census is bribing people to take part by telling them there's an extra $3000 of health funding for everybody who does so while hitting them with a big stick if they don't.

"You get less of a fine if you steal or burgle or drive drunk than for not filling out the Census," she said.

Ms Hughes believed the Census was unnecessary as information could be obtained from other government departments while some questions - such as whether somebody had ever smoked - were "insidious and nobody's business".

Under the Statistics Act 1975, everyone must fill in a Census form and people can be fined if they don't participate or provide false or incomplete information.

Statistics NZ says the accuracy of the Census depends on everyone filling in their forms and answering all questions that apply.

Its policy is to encourage people to comply with the law, but as a last resort may prosecute people who actively refuse to fill in forms or provide false information.

After the 2006 Census there were approximately 70 prosecutions of people who refused to fill in their Census forms.

- Northern Advocate

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