Last night I got home from work full of enthusiasm and excitement. Why? Because it was Census night! The night on which everyone in New Zealand sits down at a desk and completes their forms. One census form for every person in the dwelling and one for the dwelling itself. This is an event to make statisticians and demographers weak at the knees. We were actually participating in a collation of demographic data! What was more, for the first time New Zealand’s census was also available online. That is, we could sit down at our computers and type in a secret code and then fill in all the details that we otherwise would have to laboriously write out by hand. So you can see why I was excited.

So, did it live up to my excitement and anticipation? Well, like most things in life, it didn’t. Although I had three forms to fill out (mine, my son’s and our dwelling’s) it can’t have taken me less than quarter of an hour. The anti-climax was almost palpable. The government wanted to know my age, my address, where I was living five years ago, my earnings, my religion, my ethnicity and whether I owned the dwelling I was living in (or whether it was owned in a trust – I wonder if the government is thinking of cracking down on trusts as tax minimisation structures?). But the whole thing was rather mundane.

Having said that, many people do have a bit of a problem about census forms. I hear of people objecting to them on principle and there was a blog giving people a “how-to” guide to not fill them out on philosophical grounds. I do agree that the forms are fairly intrusive (but given how much info people willingly tell Facebook, personal privacy is perhaps not something we value that highly!) Another blog thought that the two options for sex, Male or Female, were too restrictive.  Another group of insecure atheists thought that if only more people would “come to their census” (see what they did there) and ticked “no religion” then we could finally prove the non-existence of God.  There was also a bit of a fuss in New Zealand about the ethnicity question – many people (around a quarter of a million) wrote in “New Zealander” as their ethnicity as they felt that the option “New Zealand European” didn’t adequately describe them. Personally I don’t have a problem with labelling my ethnicity as New Zealand European, and I’m not convinced that New Zealanders is an ethnicity.  Maybe that was my problem, not that I was too excited about the census, but that I was not excited enough! I should have raised some sort of objection to one (or more if I was feeling adventurous) of the questions. That would have raised my ire and made things much more interesting. Instead I’ll just have to wait for the census results for further census excitement. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to wait…

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...