The cancellation of the 2011 census because of the Christchurch earthquake is only the third time a scheduled census has not gone ahead as planned ; the other two cancellations were in 1931 during the  Depression  and in 1941 because of World War II. The first national census of people and dwellings was in 1851. Here in the Bay of Islands there had already been two population polls by then. The first was by British Resident James Busby; the results were despatched back to England in 1838. James Reddy Clendon conducted another census in 1846; like Busby, he collected names of European males in Northland, their occupations, wives and children, also noting how many of the latter were half caste. Nationally, prior to 1951, Maori and European were polled separately.

In a letter to the editor of the Daily Southern Cross in 1871 an indignant Ben Turner gave his version of the 1830s population of Russell, challenging that given by Mr Gillies, then superintendent of the Auckland Provincial Council, in a lecture to the Young Men’s Christian Association.

Gillies: “Kororarika, now Russell, had a European population, in 1838, amounting to 1,000,”

Turner:  “Now, myself and scores of others can assert that the town of Kororarika never at one time had 200 Europeans living there, and even in 1838 there were not 100. For when I made the first law in New Zealand there were only 37 men, five women, and they did not increase 10 more till late in 1839  for I have a list of every person’s name up to the time that Governor Hobson came (in 1840) in my house now, and the number is 70 men, women, and children.”

Perhaps it is just as well we have an official version to refer to these days. From the records: in 1836 Busby estimated 49 males, 9 females, 6  European and 4 Half caste children under 12 years in Paroa Bay, Kororareka and Tapeka; in 1846 Clendon counted 160 Europeans (men, women and children) and 18 Half caste children in Kororareka; in 2006 Russell’s population count was 816 “usually” living here, 417 male and 399 female.

The full text of Turner’s letter can be found online by searching the Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVII, Issue 4298, 24 May 1871, Page 3, at