Census tells our story

By Heather McCracken

Tonight New Zealanders are filling in census forms for the first time in seven years, and for the first time many will be abandoning paper forms and entering their details online.

This year's census, delayed because of the Christchurch earthquake, has seen paper forms delivered to 1.8 million households around the country - along with prisons, hostels, hotels and motels, hospitals, rest homes and boats.

Filling in the census is compulsory, though of course it's very difficult to ensure that everyone fills it in accurately and honestly.

In the gap since the last census in 2007, it's become frustratingly apparent how important it is to gather data that captures all of New Zealand - including the small towns and rural districts.

Being a small region, Wairarapa is frequently left out of the official data releases from Statistics New Zealand, or lumped in with Greater Wellington.

Often the sample size from Wairarapa is too small to give a reliable result, and can't be reported.

This has meant there's a lack of up-to-date, reliable data on Wairarapa and where we stand in relation to the rest of the country - particularly when it comes to important details like household income and average wages.

A lot has happened since 2006 - a property market collapse and a major natural disaster for starters - so that information can no longer paint an accurate picture.

And it's impossible to draw meaningful conclusions about Wairarapa from data that lumps together all the very disparate districts and cities of Greater Wellington.

So tonight when you fill in your census forms you're helping put together an important picture of how our community is faring - who's lagging behind, who's moving ahead, and where help is needed.

If you haven't got your census forms yet, phone 0800 CENSUS (0800 236 787).

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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