Nineteen Northlanders in the firing line

By Mike Dinsdale

Libertarianz Party Northland co-ordinator Helen Hughes is waiting to find out if she will be prosecuted for not filling out a Census form. Photo / John Stone
Libertarianz Party Northland co-ordinator Helen Hughes is waiting to find out if she will be prosecuted for not filling out a Census form. Photo / John Stone

Northlanders who did not fill out their Census forms are waiting to see if they are among 100 people nationally who are being prosecuted.

Statistics NZ has already released the first results from the 2013 Census, publishing population counts and electoral population numbers.

But the agency is now cracking down on those who did not fill out their census forms and has confirmed that 19 Northlanders are among the 100 people to be prosecuted.

Those being prosecuted have not been issued with a summons yet. The documents are now with Crown Law solicitor offices in each region and they will be lodging the papers with the courts.

One Northlander waiting to see if she will be taken before the courts is Libertarianz Northland coordinator Helen Hughes, who held a party on Census day, March 5, to "responsibly" destroy her form, along with others opposed to the information gathering exercise.

Ms Hughes admits the event was exhorting people to take part in a mass form of civil disobedience but she said many didn't like the intrusive nature of the Census and did not trust the Government. She had not yet received a summons over her refusal to take part and had not heard of anybody who had.

"I fit all the criteria," she said.

Under the Statistics Act 1975, everyone must fill in a Census form and people can be fined up to $500 per charge if they do not 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. While its policy is to encourage people to comply with the law, as a last resort it prosecutes people who actively refuse to fill in forms or provide false information.

Census 2013 general manager Sarah Minson said Statistics NZ continued to encourage people to complete their forms.

"While it has been over seven months since Census night, we will continue to accept completed forms throughout the prosecutions process."

In July, Statistics NZ wrote to 450 people, asking them to complete their Census forms or face prosecution. Following this, around 100 prosecution cases have been identified. The only area with more impending prosecutions than Northland is Auckland, with 21.

When deciding whether to prosecute, Statistics NZ takes into consideration the type of offence, the personal circumstances of the person and the likelihood of success.

In 2006, after the last Census, Statistics NZ prosecuted 72 people, resulting in 41 convictions.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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