Census strategy for city dwellers

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2013

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Growing numbers of inner-city dwellings are forcing Statistics New Zealand to build a picture of the apartment stock in Wellington and Auckland, to help ensure the integrity of the upcoming census.

The March 5 survey will be the first of its kind since 2006, which suffered from low response rates in parts of central Auckland and Wellington, blamed on the complexity of apartments compared to suburban housing.

The response rate in Auckland's central business district in 2006 was 86 per cent, which Statistics New Zealand said was "too low", with some sub-districts showing response rates of less than 80 per cent.

Wellington's CBD had a 91 per cent response rates, although some sub-districts were also 70 to 80 per cent.

In response, Statistics NZ has developed an apartment collections strategy, which has officials contacting building managers and body corporates, tertiary education providers, councils and fire services, to build a picture of the makeup of apartments.

Census collection staff in the areas will get training on how to get access to apartment buildings and how to drive home the ease of doing the surveys online.

Mick Alexander, manager of collection operations for 2013 Census, said residential houses had telltale signs to show whether they were occupied, such as seeing if the mailbox was empty or the lawns mowed.

"With apartments, if you don't speak to the occupants, unless you get something from the building managers or the body corp, you know nothing, because you can't see what's behind the door."

Commercial buildings could also be a complex mixture of retail, office space, managed apartments and private apartments, Alexander said.

Some people had chosen to live in apartments to avoid intrusion, making the attraction of online surveys greater, because collection staff may not have to return to collect papers.

The census was scheduled for 2011, but was cancelled because of the disruption caused by the Christchurch earthquakes.

The length of time since the last survey meant the changes in lifestyles would be greater than normal between surveys, Mr Alexander said.

Wellington property developer, Ian Cassels, whose Wellington Company focuses on converting unused office space into apartments, said the capital was being transformed by growing numbers of people wanting the flexibility of apartments.

He believed the population of the central city had risen from about 1000 a decade ago, to about 11,000 today.

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- The Dominion Post

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