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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 4 (July 1, 1939)

The Onward March

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The Onward March

The official opening (on the date of this issue of the Magazine) of the Napier-Wairoa-Waikokopu portion of the Napier-Gisborne railway is a reminder of the opportunities that still lie open for the progress and development of New Zealand in its onward march towards the status of a great nation.

In adopting any mental attitude towards this country it is well that an understanding of its achievements and resources should be a first consideration. The most remarkable condition to be noted in the past half century is the gradual but steady increase in population. On the average, every five years the numbers increase by another hundred thousand.

There has never been a recession, although major world events and conditions have shown an inevitable reflection in the acceleration or retardation of this movement. In the latter years of the nineteenth century there was a slack—due to depressed trade conditions—and then a speeding up—due to a better international outlook—once the century had turned. The Great War slowed down the natural increase, but the first two subsequent years made up the leeway; and then the former steady rate of increase returned, to continue until the slump. From 1930, it required seven years to add another hundred thousand to New Zealand's population, but once again the rate is increasing to produce the former balance.

It is the use and development of the country's resources that has favoured this condition of gradual but steady increase in population.

But an outlook appropriate to the country when its total inhabitants numbered only half a million, requires revision when the population exceeds one and a half millions. It is obvious that at some stage in the forward march, economic conditions would be reached when the undertaking of local manufactures of various kinds would become attractive because of the increasing local market. That is an elementary economic factor which has been noted in the development of every country, and one which New Zealand could not escape.

Once internal trade in primary and secondary industrial products becomes firmly established, there is again evidence, from the history of other countries, that rapid development takes place. From this it seems that New Zealand is on the verge of a period of quick expansion, due partly to the operation of economic laws and partly to a planned economy to assist the movement.

There is evidence from the new lines being built, from the transport co-ordinations effected, and from the improvements in buildings, tracks and rolling stock now under way, that in ability to handle the transport arising from the further and more intensive development of the Dominion's resources the Railways will be fit and ready.