There is still time to complete the census If you do not have what you need to take part, you do not need to wait for us. You can get an access code sent to you by SMS text message. If you have any questions, please call us on 0800 CENSUS (0800 236 787).

Complying with the 2023 Census

Everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand is legally required to complete the census. This is set out in the Data and Statistics Act 2022.

Note: discretion to complete census forms after Tuesday 7 March 2023 will be applied for people impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Because the census is so important and required by law, people can be prosecuted if they do not complete their census forms. Stats NZ’s priorities are to encourage and remind everyone to complete their forms and to make it as easy as possible for people to do so. We will only prosecute as the final option when a person continues to break the law.

Here are the steps that we will take when people don’t complete their census forms properly.

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1. Identifying possible breaches

Stats NZ staff /contractors (for example, census collectors) will identify and take down the names of:

  • people who refuse to complete their census forms
  • people who have intentionally completed their census forms wrongly (for example, they have provided false information or inserted inappropriate messages).

Both these actions are referred to as “refusals” and are breaches of the Data and Statistics Act 2022.

2. Encouraging a response

Our aim is to contact the people who do not complete their census forms properly in a range of ways to encourage them and help them to participate in the census. Here is the process we follow to support people at risk of prosecution:

We consider each case on its own basis. If a person completes their form(s) correctly before charges are filed, the prosecutions team may decide that no further steps will be taken.

3. Prosecution begins

If a person still refuses to complete their form(s) correctly, we send their information to our prosecutions team. This is when the formal legal process begins.

  1. The team assess the refusals.
  2. They send a notice of liability for prosecution letter to each person. The letter explains that the person may be prosecuted and fined up to $2,000 if they do not return their correctly completed census form(s) by the date specified in the letter.
  3. To avoid having too many prosecutions (which are expensive and take a lot of time to process), the prosecution team prioritise the refusals that remain after the date specified in the letter. They work with a legal advisor to identify the cases that will proceed to prosecution.

    They give priority to prosecuting those who:
    • have a strong negative attitude (including being abusive or threatening), particularly towards Stats NZ census staff or contractors
    • the number of people affected by the non-compliance
    • have encouraged others not to complete their forms.
  4. The Director Collection Operations and the Census Programme Director also review the final cases to confirm that they should go to the Chief Executive for approval to go to prosecution. The Chief Executive may delegate this decision-making power to a Deputy Chief Executive.
  5. The cases are approved to go to prosecution.
  6. The prosecution team file charging documents with the court.
  7. The court process begins.

Once a charge has been filed with the court, it is too late for a person to avoid prosecution by completing their census forms.

This process is further explained in the diagram below:

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Image descriptions

Image one

A flow chart illustration with six steps, illustrated in a straight left to right process.

  1. Person refuses to complete forms. This is above an icon of a person.
  2. Visit 1 from Stats NZ Staff to encourage response from person refusing. This is above an icon of another person.
  3. Refusal Letter one. This is above an icon of an open envelope with letter.
  4. Second visit from Stats NZ staff. This is above the same icon of a person as step 2.
  5. Refusal letter two. This is above the same icon of an envelope as step 3.
  6. Prosecutions process. This is above an icon of a judge with a gavel.

Beneath this is the following text: Although the aim is for every non-compliant person to receive two refusal letters and two visits from census staff, they may receive fewer visits and/or letters (depending on resources and date of refusal).

Image two

A flowchart illustration on two levels. It goes left to right, down, then right to left on the second line.

  1. Office - receive refusal reports.
  2. Complete preliminary assessment. Considers the evidence in the refusal report and checks the identity of the refusing respondent. Those who are not fit for prosecution are dropped from the process.
  3. Send notice of liability for prosecution.
  4. No completed forms after the notice of liability
  5. Complete selection process. CAses are sorted by priority, and the cases are reviewed by the prosecutions team.
  6. Further offence notice. Alert respondent to their offence, and that conviction does not relieve them of their obligations to complete the schedules as provided by the statistician.
  7. Charges are filed.
  8. Prosecuting Solicitor takes over process, and the court process begins.