Next month's consus has been cancelled because of the Christchurch earthquake.
The census has been cancelled only twice before, once in 1931 because of the Depression and again in 1941 during of World War II.
Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson says it is unthinkable to ask the people of Canterbury to fill out census forms at such a time.
He says the offices of Statistics New Zealand in Christchurch, where the census is processed, were severely damaged in the quake.
No decisions have been made about when the census will be held, but Mr Williamson says it will not be this year.
Chief statistician Geoff Bascand says census workers are being notified and the department is working through its obligations to pay contractors.
Statistics New Zealand says census workers are being notified and it will pay collectors for the rest of their contracts.