Stats NZ – Modernising our approach to the 2028 Census


Data can change lives. Data tells us information about how we live and support each other, makes government services better, and helps the economy grow.

Stats NZ is Aotearoa New Zealand’s official data and statistics agency. We create high-quality data and statistics about our country and the lives of our people.

Our world and New Zealanders’ needs are changing. People are asking for quicker and more specific information. Using surveys to ask for information is not working as well as it used to.

Stats NZ wants to find better ways of collecting and sharing data and statistics. Changes in technology mean we can get data from different places and can link that data together. This lets us use the information that people, groups, Māori, and businesses have given in a better way. This also means we can change how we collect information about people.

We want a census that looks different but has more value. Our plan for the 2028 Census is to reuse data we already have when we can. We will still use surveys and other options when the data we want is not available or the data we have is not good enough.

We want to know what you think

We want to hear from you on our proposed approach and the models we are considering. Your submissions must be given to us by 18 June 2024. Please make your submissions online at You can also make a phone submission by calling 0508 525 525.

Please visit or ask the census team at 0508 525 525 if you have any questions. If you are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired, the NZ Relay Service can help you make contact by phone. Go to to find out more about this free service.

You can also read the full discussion document at

About the census

What the census is

The census gives an official number of people and dwellings in New Zealand. It tells us about people and their lives, and how New Zealand is changing.

The census gives us some of the most important information we have about our country. It tells us about our homes and families, how we live, our cultures, the kinds of education we have, and how we get to work and school. This helps us see how people in New Zealand are living. It guides how billions of dollars are spent. The census counts everyone in the country on census night. This includes people that live in New Zealand and people that are visiting.


We take out any information that could tell others who you are, like your name, address, and birthday. We call this de-identified data. We then use de-identified data to get information about groups of people. We will keep your information private, secure, and confidential. We follow strict rules to make sure no one can identify you. We uphold the Privacy Act 2020 and the Data and Statistics Act 2022. We also follow strict rules about ethics and security.

Admin data

We do not only use surveys to collect information. Organisations like other government departments also collect information from you. This information is called administrative data (or admin data). Admin data is collected for things like:

  • providing services, like healthcare
  • registering events, like births
  • keeping records of transactions, like tax.

Sometimes this admin data is shared with us. Admin data can give us good information without us having to always ask every question in surveys like the census. This also means you do not have to give certain information to us again.

There are challenges with the census. Some people do not do their census form. Some people do not answer all the census questions. Because of this, Stats NZ has used a combined model since the 2018 Census. This model uses survey data, admin data, and other data. This helps us get the information we need.

An admin-data-first approach

What an admin-data-first approach is

We want to take an admin-data-first approach for the 2028 Census.

An admin-data-first approach means we will mostly use existing data to get census information. If we do not have this data, or the data we have is not good enough, we will get the data in other ways, like asking people questions in surveys.

There are many benefits to this approach. For example, this means we can:

  • ask different questions in surveys
  • publish important data and statistics faster and more often
  • collect new information that New Zealanders want.

Sometimes, admin data includes more people, is more detailed, and can be used in more ways. Using admin data more could mean less surveys and fewer census questions. This could save people time and effort.

What admin data can collect

In some cases, our admin data is better than survey data. For example, we know that the best way to count the population is through admin data. In other cases, our admin data is of similar quality to survey data. For example, we know we have good admin data about New Zealanders’ age, where New Zealanders live, and sex (here, sex refers to administrative sources that contain a mixture of sex and gender information). We also have good admin data on things like New Zealanders’ education.

In these cases, we can produce good statistics that New Zealanders need using mostly admin data.


Sometimes, we do not have admin data, or the data is not good enough. For example, we do not have good admin data about things like religion and housing quality. To collect this data, we will still need to do surveys.

We also know that admin data does not always meet the needs of population groups. These groups include Māori, Pacific, rainbow, and disabled communities. This is because admin data is usually collected to deliver services and does not always consider the point of view of people who are giving the data. This means that we still need to collect information through surveys.

Survey options

There are different survey models that we could use to collect some of the information we cannot get through admin data. ‘Survey models’ means different ways of doing surveys.

We use the term census attributes in this section. ‘Census attributes’ means data about people and dwellings.

One option is to use admin data for as many census attributes as possible but still do a census every five years for all remaining census attributes. We could also include new topics in the census, to replace topics covered by admin data. This option would be most like how we did the census in 2023, but with different (or fewer) questions. This would mean we would publish data at the same speed (although some products created from only admin data could be published once a year). The questions may be different, and people might have fewer surveys or questions to answer.

Another option is to use admin data for as many census attributes as we can, and only ask some of the population for remaining census attributes. The sample would be large enough to make sure the data is high quality, but not everyone would need to do a census survey. Like the first option, a census would still be done every five years and data would still be published at the same speed, but the numbers of surveys or questions that people have to answer would be fewer. This would be because not everyone would do a census survey.

A third option is an annual (once a year) survey with a smaller sample of the population, with data grouped together across five years. This would mean that the data and statistics we produce from the surveys would be available more often. In this option, it would be much easier to ask new or more questions. This would mean we could produce new data and statistics that better cover some topics (like quality of housing) or better respond to new needs (like recovery after natural disasters).

Different models will affect:

  • how soon data and statistics are published
  • how often data and statistics are published
  • how close to error-free data and statistics are
  • how detailed the data and statistics are
  • the type and amount of data that is collected
  • how often and how extensively people are surveyed
  • the cost of running the 2028 Census to taxpayers
  • how easy it is to access and use data and statistics.

We want to hear from you about what matters the most to you and your community.

Model evaluation

An evaluation panel will assess these survey models for the 2028 Census. For each model, the panel will consider:

  • if it meets the information needs of New Zealanders
  • how it delivers for iwi and Māori
  • if it can be done and what impacts it would have
  • the cost to taxpayers
  • if it meets people’s expectations for privacy and security
  • any risks.

Other options

Sometimes, neither admin data nor surveys are what is needed. Then, we might use other options. For example, we could use community-led surveys or new statistical techniques.

Your feedback is important to us

We know that the census does not always meet people’s needs. We also know that people’s needs change over time.

That is why we want to hear from you about the sorts of data that would be the most useful to you. We will then work out the best way to find this data – using admin data, new data sources, census, or other surveys.

We invite you to tell us what you think. Stats NZ will listen to all feedback provided through public consultation and engagement.

Informed by your feedback and the evaluation panel’s recommendations, the Government Statistician will decide on an approach to the 2028 Census in mid-2024. If the Government agrees to this approach, Stats NZ will begin more detailed design work. We will work closely with partners and key stakeholders.

We will consult with you again for a second time in 2025. This will be about the content that could be in the 2028 Census and how Stats NZ could collect certain types of data.

We look forward to hearing from you, both now and in the year to come.

Consultation questions

You can answer these questions online at Or you can make a phone submission by calling 0508 525 525.

Question 1

How much do you agree with this statement: ‘I trust Stats NZ to keep my information safe.’

  • strongly disagree
  • disagree
  • neither disagree nor agree
  • agree
  • strongly agree
  • I’m unsure

What would you need to see to know that Stats NZ will keep your data safe?

Question 2

How much do you agree with this statement: ‘I am okay with Stats NZ reusing information (like tax or housing information) I have given to other organisations, so that Stats NZ can produce data, statistics, or research that would benefit me and my community.’

  • strongly disagree
  • disagree
  • neither disagree nor agree
  • agree
  • strongly agree
  • I’m unsure

If you want to, you can tell us more.

Question 3

How much do you agree with this statement: ‘I would prefer to not answer some questions in the census if Stats NZ can get this information by reusing information I have already shared with other organisations (like my country of birth or the city I live in).’

  • strongly disagree
  • disagree
  • neither disagree nor agree
  • agree
  • strongly agree
  • I’m unsure

If you want to, you can tell us more.

Question 4

How much do you agree with this statement: ‘I want Stats NZ to ask different questions in the census, not questions other government agencies have already asked me.’

  • strongly disagree
  • disagree
  • neither disagree nor agree
  • agree
  • strongly agree
  • I’m unsure

If you want to, you can tell us more.

Question 5

What is most important to you about the data and statistics produced through census? Please choose the things that are most important to you:

  • frequency – I want data/statistics from census to be published more often
  • timeliness – I want there to be less time between when information is collected and when data/statistics are published
  • accuracy – I want data/statistics from census to be as close to error-free as possible, even if it takes longer to collect and publish them
  • accessibility – I want data/statistics from census to be easy to find, use, and understand
  • scope – I want more information to be collected through census
  • detail – I want data/statistics from census to be as detailed as possible, for example breaking an age range down into single years
  • survey burden – I want to answer fewer census questions
  • cost – I want the cost of running a census to be lower for taxpayers
  • something else – please tell us.

Please rank the ones you have selected in order of what is most important to you, with #1 being the most important.

If you want to, you can tell us more.

Question 6

How would these proposed changes affect you and your information needs? (If you are answering about a community or group that might be impacted by the change, please let us know what that community or group is and what the impacts may be.)

Question 7

If Stats NZ, for the census, reuses data about you that you shared with other organisations, what extra things (for example, protections and safeguards) would you like to see? Please choose what matters to you:

  • I want to know what my information is being used for
  • I want to know when other organisations plan to give my information to Stats NZ (for example through a privacy statement, which tells people how organisations will collect, use, and share their information)
  • I want an easy way to tell Stats NZ if things (like my address) have changed
  • I’m okay with my information being reused, as long as my data remains de-identified and I cannot be recognised by others in the data
  • I’m okay with my information being reused, but only for official statistics and for Stats NZ-approved research
  • Anything else – please tell us.

Question 8

Do you have any ideas about how Stats NZ might work with your community to collect data and statistics that cannot be found anywhere else?

Question 9

What (if any) statistics or information about our society or population would be the most useful to you, your organisation or your community, and why? Please tell us with as much detail as possible.

Question 10

Is there anything else you want to say or share with us?

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Stats NZ (2024). Modernising our approach to the 2028 Census: Summary of discussion document for public consultation. Retrieved from

ISBN 978-1-99-104976-6

Published in May 2024 by

Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa
Wellington, New Zealand


Stats NZ Information Centre:
Phone toll-free 0508 525 525
Phone international +64 4 931 4600

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