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Frequently asked questions about our surveys

If you have a question about a survey, you may find the answer here. To jump to an answer, click on one of the following questions.

Do I have to take part in this survey?

Yes. We conduct surveys to produce vital information for New Zealand. Everyone selected for one of the surveys must take part. It’s a legal requirement under the Statistics Act 1975.

  • As well as the Census of Population and Dwellings, we survey people and businesses on topics such as income, housing, the environment, economic growth, and social well-being.
  • Data collected gives local councils, community groups, businesses, iwi, and government the information they need to make decisions about the services they provide – services that matter to all of us in New Zealand.

These statistics are independent and impartial.

We recognise and value the contribution you make in providing information.

Watch ‘Statistics keep the country ticking’ – a video that explains the value of statistics. 

What benefit do I get from completing the survey questionnaire?

When you complete one of our surveys, or the Census of Population and Dwellings, you’re contributing to information you can use to find out more about New Zealand and your community.

We produce information about topics relevant to families – such as the employment situation in our country, how much households spend, how money affects people’s satisfaction with life – and information you can use to benefit your business. This information is available from our website for everyone to use.

Examples of how survey results may benefit you

Individual and household surveys

  • The Household Economic Survey (Expenditure) asks participants about how they earn and spend their money. Our field staff leaves a two-week diary where you list all your expenses, so you end up with a record of your household’s budget. You can compare your weekly spending with that of other households when results are published.
  • Your answers to the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) contribute to New Zealand’s official employment and unemployment statistics. These statistics may help you make decisions about your own employment. For example, if you’re planning to change your career or location you can check which industries are growing, or which regions have the lowest unemployment rates.
  • Your answers to the Census of Population and Dwellings contribute to determining New Zealand’s population down to the community level. Knowing the population helps the government and community groups decide how much money should be allocated in services that benefit all of us – like health care, education, police, and roads and other infrastructure.

Business surveys

For businesses, we can provide you information on:

  • assessing future industry trends
  • economic monitoring
  • target marketing
  • profiling an area
  • estimating your market share
  • assessing consumer spending patterns
  • benchmarking your business against other businesses in your industry.

For instance, the Accommodation Survey generates information on numbers and types of guest nights. If you’re in the hotel business, you can compare your hotel’s guest nights with the benchmark average – and make plans to improve if your guest nights are below the average.

Data for business has free-of-charge statistics to help you start and grow your business.

How is my information used?

The data collected when you answer the survey questionnaire is used to produce statistics and research needed to inform decision-making by New Zealanders, businesses, and government.

The statistics we produce are all available free of charge from our website.

Examples of how your information is used

Individual and household surveys

  • Household Economic Survey (Expenditure) data feeds into the consumers price index (CPI), which measures New Zealand’s inflation rate. The inflation rate is used to adjust the benefits beneficiaries receive, superannuation for retirees, and the official cash rate.
  • The Household Labour Force Survey determines how many people in New Zealand are employed and unemployed. We publish this information in our Labour Market Statistics releases.
  • Census of Population and Dwellings information determines how government funding is spent in the community. It is used to help make decisions about what services are needed and where, such as hospitals, kōhanga reo, schools, roads, public transport, and recreational facilities. It is also used by councils, community groups, iwi, and businesses to plan and make decisions.

Business surveys

  • The Agricultural Production Survey helps government and businesses engaged in agriculture, horticulture, and forestry identify trends in the sector.
  • The Annual Enterprise Survey (AES) provides accurate information on the financial performance and position of New Zealand businesses. We use this information in calculating gross domestic product (GDP) – the official measure of New Zealand’s economic growth or decline.

Is my information protected?

Yes. Your privacy is important to us. We are committed to keeping your information completely secure and confidential. Our published statistics and research do not identify individuals, households, or businesses. We store archived data securely and, if it’s no longer needed, we destroy it.

Find out more about how we keep your information secure and confidential.

Do you share my information?

We may share information for statistical purposes and public interest research that benefits New Zealanders.

When we share information we remove personal details like names and addresses. The data is also confidentialised, which means we group the data in a way that stops individual people being identified.

No other organisation – including the Police or Work and Income – can get information that identifies survey responses from individuals.

What is the difference between a census and a survey?

A census involves counting or asking questions of an entire population.

Examples of Statistics NZ censuses:

  • The Census of Population and Dwellings is conducted every five years. Everyone in New Zealand is legally obligated to complete a census form. The most recent census was in 2013, and the next will be in 2018.
  • The Accommodation Survey requires that all hotels, motels, backpackers, and holiday parks participate in the survey – either directly, or via associated industry organisations.

A survey involves asking questions of a sample of the entire population. The sample represents the population being studied.

Examples of Statistics NZ surveys:

  • The Household Labour Force Survey selects approximately 16,000 households (from an estimated 1.68 million total) to participate.
  • The yearly Agricultural Production Survey selects approximately 30,000 from 70,000 businesses involved in agricultural, horticultural, or forestry production to participate.
  • The Quarterly Retail Trade Survey selects 2,800 businesses (from 57,000 retail outlets) to participate.

How did you select me?

Individual and household surveys

In selecting you we use a fair statistical selection method where every household in New Zealand has a known chance of being included. Because it is time-consuming and expensive to survey all households as we do in the census, we use a sample of households to reflect the target population. To build a sample that is representative of the population of interest, we selected your dwelling, your household, or you.

Our field staff interview a household member who meets the response criteria in the selected dwelling. In some household surveys, we interview all eligible individuals.

The Statistics Act 1975 states that everyone must complete the Census of Population and Dwellings. However, the Census Test in March 2016 was voluntary and involved sample areas in the Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, and Canterbury regions. People in selected households were asked to take part in the Census Test.

Business surveys

We select business survey participants from a list of businesses in New Zealand. To get an accurate and relevant picture, businesses of all sizes and from all regions are selected.

Your business may have been selected:

  • as a representative slice of your industry
  • because you’re a key contributor to an industry
  • because your industry is small, and all businesses in it need to be surveyed (census).

Other things to note:

  • Even small businesses may be selected, because information from businesses of all sizes is needed.
  • Some businesses may be required to participate in more than one survey.

Will you pay me for completing the survey questionnaire?

No. The data we collect is needed to produce vital information for New Zealand. It benefits everyone, just like taxes collected by the Inland Revenue.

How can I complete the survey questionnaire?

Individual and household surveys

Individual and household surveys are completed through face-to-face interviews by our field staff. Follow-ups are conducted by phone.

2018 Census of Population and Dwellings forms will primarily be completed online. Paper forms will still be available for those who request them.

Most households selected for the Census Test in March 2016  received a letter in their mailbox with instructions on how to participate. Some households were visited by our field officers, who may have left instructions and forms for you.

Business surveys

Business surveys can be completed by filling in paper, editable PDF,  Excel, or online versions of the questionnaire. You’ll find instructions on how to complete the survey on the questionnaire you receive.

See our 'Latest news about our surveys' to learn which business surveys can be completed online.

Where can I get more information about the survey?

Information about our surveys: A–Z of surveys will provide you with information about the survey you have been selected to participate in. It includes information about:

  • why we carry out the surveys
  • who takes part in the survey
  • how you were selected
  • how often do we carry out the survey
  • how the survey questionnaire can be completed
  • links to samples of the survey questionnaire and results of the survey.

How do I know that the person contacting me is from Statistics NZ?

In most cases you’ll be able to tell whether someone is from Statistics NZ by their actions and what they’re wearing. The following guidelines will help you identify Statistics NZ staff.

If you’re not sure, call us toll-free on 0800 104 704.

Our staff do not knock on your door, or call you, without advising you first

We’ll send you a letter before knocking on your door or calling your home. However, the way we contact you may differ depending on the survey you’re being asked to participate in.

Individual and household surveys

You will be sent an official letter from Liz MacPherson, Government Statistician and Chief Executive of Statistics NZ, to tell you your household has been selected to participate in our survey.

The initial interviews for household surveys are face-to-face, and carried out by field staff using a laptop. To complete the survey, we follow up with interviews by phone, a personal visit, or a questionnaire for you to fill in.

'Do not knock' stickers don't apply to our interviewers

Statistics NZ's surveys are not covered by Consumer NZ's 'Do not knock' stickers.

These stickers are intended to prevent salespeople from knocking at your door. We have the right to visit homes when conducting official surveys.

Our field staff and census officers wear official Statistics NZ identification.

If selected for a survey, you are required to participate.

Census of Population and Dwellings

Census Test – March 2016: You received a letter containing the online code to participate in the Census Test, and a link to complete the survey online at www.census.govt.nz.

Census address canvassing: This involves checking our address lists are accurate for the Census of Population and Dwellings. For address canvassing, we will not send notice that we’ll be in your area. You may see our census field staff on the streets recording information about addresses. They wear Statistics NZ branded clothing and photo identification.   

Business surveys

Businesses will be informed that they have been selected to participate in the survey. They will receive an official letter and/or an official questionnaire.

In certain instances, a business may be advised by phone that they have been selected for a survey before being sent a questionnaire.

Our field staff wear Statistics NZ identification

  • They wear a Statistics NZ photo identification card similar to the picture below. On the back of it is a Certificate of Authority, which you can use to confirm their identification.

Image, Statistics NZ field staff with photo identification card.

  • They wear a branded vest or clothing similar to the pictures below. Census field officers will have a tablet, and may be wearing a branded orange vest at their discretion.

Image, Statistics NZ field staff wearing Statistics NZ branded clothing.

  • Our survey field interviewers drive a car with Statistics NZ logo on it.

 Image, Statistics NZ field staff drive a car with Statistics NZ logo on it.

  • Our census field officers carry a blue bag with a Statistics NZ logo, like in the picture below.

Image, blue bag with Statistics NZ logo.

You can call us toll-free on 0800 104 744 or 0800 236 787 (0800 Census) to confirm the identity of our field and Contact Centre staff.

Our staff do not ask for your bank or credit card details, or your IRD number

Statistics NZ will not ask you for:

  • your bank details
  • your credit card account numbers
  • your IRD number
  • money or any kind of donation
  • anything on behalf of a political party or any volunteer group
  • your time so they can promote or sell a product or service.

If you have concerns, call us toll-free

  • Individual and household surveys: 0800 104 744
  • Census Test 2016: 0800 236 787 (0800 Census)
  • Business surveys: 0800 809 464

If you are suspicious of a person who says they are employed by Statistics NZ, or about the information requested, contact any of the following:

 

Page updated 19 July 2016

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