The Christmas story has Mary and Joseph in Bethleham because of a census. The first record of an official census was far earlier than that, in Babylonia in 3800BC. Many years later, the first census in New Zealand occurred in 1851. For a few years, census was the responsibility of the provincial governments, so who was counted and when varied throughout the country. When the central government was formed in 1877, the census became a more organised affair and our first whole country census on the five year cycle we still follow today was held in 1881.
There have been exceptions to this cycle, as we all know, this 2013 census was meant to be held in 2011 but postponed due to the Christchurch Earthquakes. In fact, there have been two other times when the census was not held as scheduled. The 1931 the census was abandoned because the country was going through the Depression and there had been a reduction in the number of public servants. In 1941 when so many people were involved in World War II, the census was postponed until the end of the war and the 1946 census was thus held in 1945.
That is a lot of counting! Today the census 2013 results have been released. You can see a cool inforgraphic of the results here: New Zealand Census 2013
Census results are deemed so important that the Census Act of 1975 means you can be fined $500 plus $20 per day for every day that you have not filled in your census forms!
Besides being useful to allocate goverment funding and resources though, census also shows us a cool picture of the who we are as a group. If you want to dig further into the results you can do that here at the Statistics New Zealand webpage. Statistics New Zealand also has a facebook page. Be warned though, all the intersting infographics can be a major time drain! 🙂