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Glossary and references


Area unit

Area units are aggregations of meshblocks. They are non-administrative areas intermediate between meshblocks and territorial authorities. Area units must either define or aggregate to define urban areas, rural centres, statistical areas, territorial authorities and regional councils. Each area unit must be a single geographic entity with a unique name. Area units of main or secondary urban areas generally coincide with suburbs or parts thereof. Area units within urban areas normally contain 3,000–5,000 population.

Census night address

Census night address is the physical location of the dwelling where a respondent is located on ensus night. For passengers on overnight trains and buses, it is recommended that Census night address is the destination dwelling of the passenger.


A dwelling is any building or structure, or part thereof, that is used (or intended to be used) for the purpose of human habitation. It can be of a permanent or temporary nature and includes structures such as motels, hotels, prisons, motor homes, huts, and tents. At the highest level, dwellings are classified as private or non-private.

A private dwelling accommodates a person or a group of people, but is not available to the public. A private dwelling may be permanent or temporary. Permanent private dwellings include houses and flats, residences attached to a business or institution; baches, cribs and huts. Caravans, cabins, tents and other makeshift dwellings that are the principal or usual residence of households are classified as temporary private dwellings.

All other dwellings are non–private and are available to the public. They may be available for use generally, or by virtue of occupation or study, special needs, or legal requirements. Such dwellings may have facilities (such as a dining room) that are for shared use.

Dwelling address

Dwelling address consists of the distinguishing details of the physical location of a dwelling and can include street number, name, and type; suburb or rural locality; and city, town or district.

Geographic Frame

The Geographic Frame contains an extensive street listing constantly updated by data received from territorial authorities, Electoral Enrolment Centre and Land Information New Zealand. The Geographic Frame enables an address to be geocoded to a unique meshblock. The Geographic Frame also contains other address related data such as commercial buildings, schools, hospitals etc, which may be used to geocode a location where the exact address is unknown.


A household is either one person who usually resides alone or two or more persons who usually reside together and share facilities (such as eating facilities, cooking facilities, bathroom and toilet facilities, a living area) in a private dwelling.


The meshblock is the smallest geographic unit for which statistical data is collected and processed by Statistics New Zealand. A meshblock is a defined geographic area, varying in size from part of a city block to large areas of rural land. Each meshblock abuts against another to form a network covering all of New Zealand including coasts and inlets, and extending out to the two hundred mile economic zone. Meshblocks are added together to ‘build up’ larger geographic areas such as area units and urban areas. They are also the principal unit used to draw-up and define electoral district, territorial authority and regional council boundaries.

Regional council

The Local Government Commission established regional councils in 1989. These regional councils cover every territorial authority in New Zealand with the exception of the Chatham Islands District. The geographical boundaries of regions conform as far as possible to one or more water catchments. In determining regions, consideration was also given to regional communities of interest, natural resource management, land use planning, and environmental matters.

Territorial authority

Territorial authority boundaries are defined by aggregations of area units. When defining the boundaries of territorial authorities, the Local Government Commission placed considerable weight on the ‘community of interest’. While the size of the community was a factor, the relevance of the components of the community to each other and the capacity of the unit to service the community in an efficient manner, were the factors on which the Commission placed most emphasis.

Usual residence n years ago

Usual residence n years ago is the usual residence of a respondent n completed years prior to the date that the data is collected.


A visitor to a dwelling is a person who is present in a dwelling at the time of the survey but does not usually reside in that dwelling.

Years at usual residence

Years at usual residence is the length of time up to the date of the data collection, expressed in completed years (including short–term absences, but excluding long–term absences), that a respondent has lived at their usual residence.

Residual categories

Don’t know

Use of this category is discretionary. The use of a category capturing don't know responses is most applicable to household surveys where don't know may be a legitimate response to certain questions.

Refused to answer

This category is only used when it is known that the respondent has purposefully chosen not to respond to the question. Use of this residual category in processing is optional. Its use is most applicable in face–to–face or telephone interviews, but may be used in self–completed questionnaires if the respondent has clearly indicated they refuse or object to answering the question.

Response unidentifiable

This category is used when there is a response given, but:

  1. the response is illegible, or
  2. it is unclear what the meaning or intent of the response is – this most commonly occurs when the response being classified contains insufficient detail, is ambiguous or is vague, or
  3. the response is contradictory eg, both the yes and no tick boxes have been ticked, or
  4. the response is clear and seemingly within the scope of the classification but can not be coded because no suitable option (particularly other residual category options such as 'not elsewhere classified' or 'not further defined') exists in the classification or codefile.
Response outside scope

This category is used for responses that are positively identified (ie the meaning and the intent are clear) but which clearly fall outside the scope of the classification/topic as defined in the standard.

Not stated

This category is only used where a respondent has not given any response to the question asked, ie it is solely for non–response.

Residual categories – specific to usual residence

No fixed abode

This category is used for respondents that do not permanently reside in any home or dwelling.

Country not stated

This category is used for responses that are recognised as a non New Zealand address but as the country is not given cannot be coded to the appropriate country.

New Zealand not further defined

This category contains responses that are recognised as a New Zealand address but are not specific enough to be coded in more detail.


Department of Statistics (1992). New Zealand Standard Areas Classification Manual, Wellington.
United Nations (1998). Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses Revision 1, New York.

Further information

For further information on geographic classifications refer to the New Zealand Standard Areas Classification Manual (catalogue number 19.035.0092), or contact the Classifications and Standards Section.

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