Letters: This is a right cock-up

The census may turn out to be an expensive mistake.
The census may turn out to be an expensive mistake.

Tuesday's editorial (Count us out, February 27) is absolutely right on the button. This year's census has all the potential to be the most expensive cock up in New Zealand's history.

As of today there are a number of households within a not very large distance from my residence who have not yet received their envelope. Some are 'vacant dwellings' so how will these be enumerated?

Kiwis are notoriously ambivalent to bureaucratic authority, and won't go out of their way to correct the Statistics Department's parsimonious attitude to honestly and competently completing the most vitally necessary task ever entrusted to it. In this instance there are no short cuts.

One of the greatest pleasures that came from the job of enumerating census data came when one was able to help those who had difficulty in interpreting the questions. There were also the bloody-minded, who could not or would not see the need for accurate data to provide for society's communal needs.

(This worked once when somebody was persuaded to accept that if the population count rose significantly they could get their road sealed. Later it was.)

The advantage of a personal, on-the-ground approach is critical. Local knowledge is priceless when it comes to winkling out the shy or reclusive. E.g. how could a bureaucrat ever get to hear of a tent dwelling in the bush? How would the initial envelope get to that dwelling?

It is a cause of pride to claim that only once over the 40 years, only one person has ever succeeded in not completing the census for me, and after being confronted by the supervisor with the costly legal consequences, he eventually complied. This highlights the irreplaceable value of a personal presence.

Because of the experience gained over eight census operations spanning more than 40 years, it can be taken with a high degree of acceptance that the above comment in support of the Northland Age editorial, the editorial was absolutely spot on. It takes a big man to admit a mistake. Is the Department that big?

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- Northland Age

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