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How we developed 2013 Census help for Canterbury

Understanding what Canterbury people need

Since the 2010/11 earthquakes, the circumstances of many people living in Canterbury have changed considerably. As a result, we understand that some people may have difficulty answering certain questions on the 2013 Census forms. To help Canterbury respondents complete their forms quickly and easily, and ensure we get the best quality data for the Canterbury region, we have developed additional help for respondents affected by the earthquakes.

The development process included:

  • consultation with key data users about their expectations for the 2013 Census data
  • a series of interviews with Canterbury respondents affected by the earthquakes in different ways. These interviews gave us valuable information about which census questions people might have difficulty with, and how to best help respondents complete their forms in a way that ensures we get good quality census data for Canterbury.

Question on usual residential address

Our priority was to develop additional help for the ‘usual residential address’ question (question 5 on the individual form).

Question 5 Usual Residence

Data from this question:

  • forms the basis of population estimates and projections
  • is used to define electoral boundaries
  • will play a crucial role in planning the rebuilding of Canterbury.

It is therefore important that people displaced by the earthquakes can answer the usual residence question easily, and in a way that aligns with what data users expect the data to show.
Our advice for people displaced by the Canterbury earthquakes is to answer the usual residence question with the address they are currently living at, unless they are living away from their home temporarily (while it is repaired or rebuilt for example). In that case, they should give the address they will be moving back to.

We chose not to connect the word ‘temporarily’ with a specific time period for three main reasons.

  1. The statistical standard for usual residence stipulates that ‘usual residence’ is a self-defined concept, and including an associated time period is deliberately avoided (except in determining whether overseas visitors are usual New Zealand residents).
  2. It would be difficult to specify a period of time that would cover all of the changing circumstances of respondents affected by the earthquakes.
  3. In interviewing, we found that some people displaced by the earthquakes do not have a clear idea of when they will be moving back to their earthquake-affected address.

Help with other questions

In addition to usual residence, we also developed help information for other census questions that earthquake-affected respondents may have difficulty answering, such as:

  • years lived at usual residence
  • home ownership
  • number of rooms and bedrooms in dwellings
  • fuel types used to heat dwellings
  • sources of income
  • weekly rent paid
  • workplace address.

Advice for respondents on how to answer these questions, and instructions for people living in alternative accommodation (such as a caravan) will be available on the online census forms. They can also be viewed here.

Information will also be included in an information leaflet about the 2013 Census for Canterbury respondents, which will be delivered in the region by collectors before census day.


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