Along with a new set of online forms to spur at least 70 per cent of New Zealanders to respond to the census digitally, every census (usually held at five-year intervals) poses questions of national and social importance on issues tracked over time.
Census general manager for 2018, Denise McGregor, says one of the most important new questions in the March 6 census concerns housing and heating in New Zealand.
“Housing quality can affect health,” she says, “and consultation ahead of our final decision about content for the census indicated strongly that high priorities would be questions on mould, dampness and access to basic amenities like cooking facilities, electricity, or a bath or shower.”
Alongside that, questions on how homes were heated would provide a clearer picture, changing the emphasis from previous focus on fuels used to the method of heating and appliances used.
Knowing more about damp and mould issues will help government agencies address a problem which some reports say cause the death of 1600 people every winter, mostly from respiratory and circulatory illness – underlined by University of Otago public health professor Philippa Howden-Chapman in her 2015 book Home Truths: Confronting New Zealand’s Housing Crisis.