Population Figures From 2016 Cook Islands Census Delayed

After scanner breakdown, forms being sent to New Zealand for compilation

By Rashneel Kumar 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, June 1, 2017) – Confirmation of the latest Cook Islands population figures has been delayed following technical problems with the compilation of data from the 2016 national census.

Government statistician Taggy Tangimetua said a scanner used to compile the data had broken down and would take some time to repair.

She said the statistics office had sent the filled forms to New Zealand for compilation.

“Considering the amount of time it would have taken to fix the scanner, it was easier and faster for us to send the documents over to New Zealand, Tangimetua said.

“We are almost done with the outer islands and are currently working on finalising the data.”

Despite the delay in the final outcome, there are predictions that the new census data will show a further drop in the country’s population, especially on the outer islands.

Development economist Vaine Wichman, who has worked extensively in the Pa Enua, the fluctuation in population numbers is easily seen on the northern islands.

“Based on medical referrals, education scholarships and families leaving with their children for Rarotonga, island leaders and public health workers have a fairly good handle on the ebb and inflow of people to the islands,” Wichman said.

“The census, however, is an official tool that tracks the total population of the country at one time as well as informing and confirming trends, and the characteristics of our population over a period of time.”

Wichman is among those looking forward to the preliminary results of Census 2016, as it will confirm or dispel depopulation trends from previous surveys.

For instance, over the past two censuses (2011, 2006), Tongareva has observed probably the largest population decline at an average of over 30 per cent a year.

“A return of eight to 10 persons can significantly change this percentage. And that is one of the key reasons it is important to quote robust figures to avoid misrepresenting the smaller populations and atolls in the Northern Cook Islands.

“Hence, the importance of Statistics Cook Islands ensuring their final counts hold up to the official international standards they are guided by.”

The census of population and dwellings is a stocktake of people in the Cook Islands and their housing, conducted every five years.

It is the primary source of information on the size, composition, distribution, economic activities and state of wellbeing of the population.

The Census of Population and Dwellings 2016 was conducted in December. The particular provisions relating to this census is set out in sections 18 and 19 of the Act.

Other sections of the Act that apply include secrecy provisions that guard against the release or publication of any individual’s personal details.

In an interview last year, Statistics Office Census manager Jim Nimerota said many services available to families require figures from the census to operate effectively. Population numbers were used to forecast resourcing needs for children in schools, for example.

He said population density helped health practitioners better prepare for disease outbreaks while housing and dwelling figures secured funding for subsidising products families needed but couldn’t afford, such as water pumps and tanks.

It was also important to understand the current state of each community and to shed light on the issues affecting it, Nimerota added.

“Without facts, we can only speculate and discuss issues such as whether our communities are experiencing economic prosperity or economic hardship.

Are more Cook Islanders leaving for overseas or returning home?” 

Cook Islands News
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