Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III
249 — The acting Prime Minister of New Zealand5 to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs6 — [Extract]
The acting Prime Minister of New Zealand5 to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs6
His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have under urgent consideration major questions affecting the defence of the territories of the South Pacific under their operational control and, in particular, the responsibility for ordering and financing essential defence measures in Fiji. Recommendations covering this and other defence matters have been placed before them by their Military Adviser, General Sir Guy Williams,7 and these have been endorsed by the New Zealand Chiefs of Staff.page 280
2. In view of the deterioration of the situation in the Pacific, His Majesty's Government in New Zealand feel that a decision is a matter of extreme urgency, and an early expression of the views of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom on these questions would be greatly appreciated.
3. Although Fiji and Tonga have, for defence purposes, been placed within the sphere of responsibility of New Zealand, in actual practice the control of defence in those territories is still divided, with the result that the Commanding Officer of the New Zealand Forces has to look both to the New Zealand War Cabinet and to the Governor of Fiji for approval and financial sanction of any form of defence work, a considerable amount of which is urgently needed. It will readily be appreciated that in the event of active hostilities such divided control is impossible and might spell disaster, and at the present time it constitutes a considerable hindrance to essential defence preparations.
4. In reporting on the defences of Fiji and Tonga, General Williams has recommended that both operational control and the approving and financing of all necessary defence works should, as soon as possible, be placed under the New Zealand Government—any financial adjustments would of course be made in due course between the Colonial Office and this Administration. Arrangements are being undertaken meanwhile to expedite defence work, and special authority is to be given by the New Zealand Government to the local Commander for this purpose.
5. His Majesty's Government in New Zealand also desire to bring before the attention of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom the question of the payment of costs incurred in connection with measures already taken for the defence of Fiji and territories under the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, in so far as they provide for the defence of Fiji and the defence of New Zealand, through Fiji as an outlying base.
6. At the Defence Conference held in Wellington in April 1939 it was recommended, inter alia, that New Zealand should maintain aerial reconnaissance along the line New Hebrides – Fiji – Tonga, establish an air base at Fiji, provide certain material and key personnel for the Fiji Defence Force, despatch a brigade group when necessary, and arrange the construction of two landing grounds in Fiji. These recommendations have been accepted and have been or are being implemented….1
5 Hon. W. Nash.
1 Estimates of expenditure and proposals for the apportionment of costs have been omitted.