A gay rights campaigner is accusing New Zealand’s national statistical office of breaking the law by excluding a question on sexual orientation from the census

Victor van Wetering, former editor of gay newspaper Express, is calling the omission by Statistics New Zealand “actively discriminatory.”” He first complained to the Human Rights Commission in 2001.

Discussions will begin later this year on whether to include the question in the 2011 census.

Mr van Wetering said a question on sexual orientation would provide policy makers and planners with useful information to serve the gay community.

He told the New Zealand Herald: “For example, some public campaigns might become more targeted at queer New Zealanders if this group was found more likely to smoke, or less aware of benefit entitlements, than other New Zealanders.”

In 2003, Statistics New Zealand research indicated most people would accept a question, provided people could refuse to answer. It is illegal under the Human Rights Act for a government policy to treat any section of the community unfavourably because of their sexual orientation.