Following the census debacle, the resignation of the CEO of Statistics New Zealand last week was inevitable.
I called for this in this column and for two further steps which if not taken could penalise the present Government in the general election due next year.
With wonderful irony, although it's the Government that the census shambles could damage, it's the National Party in its now familiar headless chook mode that's advocating the steps that would assist the return of Jacinda Ardern's Government.
National is now saying that the census has been proven to be so unreliable that the scheduled redrawing of electoral boundaries should be abandoned, and an Act of Parliament passed validating the current boundaries for the election next year.
Given its leadership, I'm not surprised that the National Party hasn't worked out that the current situation could be to its advantage.
What does surprise me is that Statistics Minister James Shaw has defended the whole fiasco for as long as he has, given that it's the result of the penny-pinching, out-of-touch National Party administration which set the process in motion.
It could be argued that we are looking at some long entrenched bureaucratic racism.
A little history is required here.
New Zealand's first "census" was taken in 1851.
This exercise was race-based and racist, and in something of an eerie preview of what happened last year, the 1851 Census did not include Māori, though horses, sheep, goats, mules, asses and "horned cattle" were counted.
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For the record, in 1851 New Zealand boasted 26,707 Pākehā and 233,043 sheep.
Māori and Pākehā were not treated equally by New Zealand censuses until 1951, 100 years later.
The method of census-taking in 1851 and for the next 162 years was unchanged.
Census forms were dropped into households and later picked up by trained officials known as enumerators.
This system served the county very well.
Participation rates were comparable to the best in the developed world.
A retired Statistics Department insider told me that counting Māori has always presented a range of problems including itinerancy, literacy and what she called "the fluidity of some households".
She explained the latter phenomenon as the decision as to where a young person lived when parenting was shared amongst members of a wider whānau.
Given this knowledge, it's all the more difficult to understand why the Statistics Department should leap head first into an online method of collection as it did for the 2018 Census.
As the government department responsible for statistics, the people who devised the online strategy for the census must have been aware that Māori make up the bottom end of many statistical indexes – wealth, health, joblessness, house ownership – and online access.
Former Green MP and long-time social activist Sue Bradford, who has worked with the most deprived Kiwis for years, made the point eloquently on TV3's Newshub Nation broadcast last Saturday.
She said anyone in her position understood that online access is a luxury which the poor can't afford, and her comments confirm the Howard League's experience with the predominantly Māori offenders in its unlicensed drivers programme - the vast majority of whom don't have email addresses.
Ultimately the buck stops with the former National Government which, presumably attracted by the cost savings, signed off on the online strategy.
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The now departing CEO of the Statistics Department claimed there are methods available to fill the huge gaps left by those who shunned the online response and were not located by the heavily reduced workforce of enumerators.
It's very hard to imagine what those other methods might be, given the elusiveness of the poorest of our citizens even under the old door-to-door distribution and follow-up approach.
It's therefore inevitable, in my view, that Māori will be undercounted, the only question is around the quantum.
This mess will generate arguments about school and hospital funding (the Tairawhiti DHB is this week expressing misgivings about its future funding base) and a myriad of other payments and privileges that are predicated by the census, but it's the political ramifications that should worry the incumbent Government.
The Electoral Commission websites says this, the Māori Electoral Option is held after each five-yearly population census and runs for four months. The number of Māori and general electorates is set using results from the option and the census. The number of Māori enrolled on the Māori roll at the end of the option period could mean that the number of Māori electorates increases, decreases, or stays the same.
With the latest Māori option showing no increase in the Māori roll and the probable census undercount, it's possible that Labour will lose one or even two of its Māori seats in the redistribution. The Government should seriously consider National's offer to void the whole mess and start again.
Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.