Man pleads guilty in Census case

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 13:51 10/12/2013

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Thomas Martin refused to complete his Census forms because he believes the Government has enough private information about him.

But he reluctantly filled out the 2013 Census forms today to try to avoid a $500 fine.

As he stood out the back of Hastings District Court, he grumbled that Statistics New Zealand should be paying him to complete the "bloody form".

His wife and lawyer convinced him to put aside his principles and complete the form. He thought the Government had gathered enough information on him through other departments.

It was the first time he had completed Census and the first time he had been prosecuted for refusing to do so.

Today, he pleaded guilty to a charge of not supplying statistics.

Judge Bridget Mackintosh said people were required to complete the Census so the Government could use the data to allocate funding.

"That's why you have to play the game."

Martin objected to the Judge's indication of a $150 fine because he did what was asked.

Judge Mackintosh convicted Martin but waived the fine. She warned him that he would be fined $20 a day which would begin 14 days after the conviction, if he did not post the completed forms.

Martin was relieved he escaped a fine.

"I haven't got money to spend over papers," the sickness beneficiary said outside of court.

"I still believe it's a waste of time," he said.

Census data is used by central and local governments in decision-making, Census general manager Sarah Minson said.

Statistics New Zealand prosecutes a small number of people who fail to complete the forms.

In 2006, about 200,000 people did not return forms. Less than 80 people were prosecuted. It was estimated about 5 per cent of the population failed to fill in the 2013 Census. Just 99 people had been charged because of this.

Minson said Statistics New Zealand had a small budget and prosecutions were determined "case by case". There had to be sufficient legal evidence that the person had refused to comply despite numerous attempts by the Census team to remind them to complete the forms. Martin did not respond to numerous reminder letters.

A person's history was not taken into account, when deciding to prosecute, Minson said.

"We don't target individuals."

So far, nine people, including Martin, had been convicted.

Martin, who failed to vote, said it was lucky they hadn't charged him for that.

"That would be more money down the drain."

Martin would try to be out of the country when the next Census was held.

"I might move to Australia," he laughed.

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- The Dominion Post

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