Ignoring the census sees fine for farmer

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 12:35 26/02/2014

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Family and 800 cows came before the census for one Opiki farmer who decided to sweep it under the mat.

Colin Free, 42, pleaded guilty in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday to a charge of failing to fill in the compulsory document.

Statistics New Zealand announced in October that it was prosecuting 99 people for not completing the 2013 census.

As of yesterday, it had secured 28 convictions, with 11 people pleading not guilty, 19 cases still being processed, 26 let off and 15 unavailable to serve, Statistics NZ spokeswoman Kelly Mitchell said.

For Free, the 2013 census came at a bad time.

Defence lawyer Jock Turnbull told Judge Barbara Morris the farm manager had recently taken control of a second farm and was running both by himself.

"He had recently separated from his wife and was trying to look after his family life as well. It was all too much to deal with for him."

Judge Morris told Free that filling out census forms was an important duty to the community he lived in and the people who delivered forms went to great lengths to help people fill them out if needed.

She convicted and discharged Free with a fine of $300.

Away from court, Free told the Manawatu Standard he had now completed the forms.

His ex-wife had normally done most of the paperwork and with so much going on in his life he had decided to "sweep it under the mat and hope it went away".

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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