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Design Review: Volume 5, Issue 2 (May-June 1953)

The Next Million — (Continued from page 39)

page 45

The Next Million(Continued from page 39)

The inroads of margarine into our market in Great Britain should make us think. Wool, too, is always under threat from synthetic materials. It is only the war clouds of the past few years that brought down the golden rain on the backs of our woolly sheep. But take meat. So long as our most important market is Great Britain we are constantly in danger from the competition of other countries such as the Argentine who have the advantage of being closer.

All this is true, but it does not alter the fact that in a world that is getting more and more hungry we can produce infinitely more food than we need ourselves. If the world doesn't want this food we can grow something else—or can we? Surely this is the question. What can we produce in New Zealand? Do we know? In a vague sort of way—yes! But there has never been a systematic study of resources. We need this urgently now—a sort of stock-taking. How otherwise can we have any clear idea as to what we can produce and where we can produce it? How can we have any real clue as to what the next million will be doing in 1980? Will they be producing for export or will they be taking in one another's washing, while we continue to import wheat, protatoes, cheese and canned vegetables, fruit, fish and the rest?

Will our towns continue to spread as Eric Linklater forecast in his recent book, “A Year in Space”, … “Consuming the fat fields, gnawing at pasture, devouring national wealth …” “if New Zealand's population grows from something less than 2,000,000 to rather more than 5,000,000, as many New Zealanders think it should, and all the new arrivals are housed as lavishly as the Gisbornians and Aucklanders, the aspect of the country will be most lamentaly changed, the mountains will remain, the tall hills and great alps will survive humanity, but instead of wide green pastures and enormous flocks, prodigious herds, there will be cast archipelagos of bungalow roofs divided at right angles by navigable channels for purely urban traffic.”

Is this such a tall story? Even at present, we are told, the growth of New Zealand's population is at the rate of 1000 a week. So that in a little over every month there is a new population equivalent to that of Thames or Stratford or Dannevirke and in less than a month to that of Te Awamutu, Marton or Lyttelton. Will this new population—this further million by 1980—be mainly urban dwellers as Link-later predicts? The answer to that is, “They will live where they work.” And where will they work?

So you see we're back again to the same question, the answer to which depends almost entirely upon what we do now. We can make the next thirty years a period of high adventure, positive, constructive, exciting. It is a great opportunity. Shall we take it or shall we drift on dully, without objective, from crisis to crisis, constantly surprised at the results of our own mistakes and lack of foresight. If we do, the increased export of one commodity is certain—our native brains and initiative.

The solution so frequently advocated—longer hours, more work—is not enough. It is in fact no solution, and moreover no stimulation. And stimulus is what we so badly need. The stimulus to interest people of imagination and courage—to make the scientists and the specialists in the field of development of resources feel that they are wanted—the geologists, soil scientists, the specialists in the study of climate, pasture, trees; the geographers, economists and sociologists. Theirs is the first job—to find the facts, to tell us what our resources really are. It is only in the light of this knowledge that plans for development can rationally be conceived.

How is this work done? Certain aspects lend themselves to study on a national scale, for example, the present distribution of population and its growth and shifts from the time of the first settlements; associated with this, the occupational structure and the disribution of industry; national producion and overseas trade. But when it comes to the detail—the stock-taking as we have called it—a study on a Dominion-wide basis would be cumbersome. Moreover it is found that the country is naturally divided into areas—or regions—with a clear identity and character of their own. We all recognise such regions as Northland, the Waikato, the West Coast, Central Otago. In fact it has been found that New Zealand can be divided into 24 or 25 such regions with natural geographical boundaries and of a size convenient for study.

So we take such a region and we proceed to find out all about it. We want to know everything. First of all its natural assets and its limitations—its minerals, its soils, its topography, climate, vegetation—in short, its potential resources. Then we record what human beings have done to it—how the land is used, the towns, the industries, the communications, the power supplies and other assets and their history. In each region two pictures emerge, the present and the possible future. It is the sum total of these regional pictures that form a national mosaic in the light of which a developmental policy can be built on a sure foundation.

As recent commentators have broadly hinted, in a world of expanding population we are living in a fool's paradise. We could even find ourselves with no export surplus—with our population consuming all we produce. On the other hand, with the world's increasing demand for food, our climatic advantages give us an unrivalled opportunity as a primary producing country. By conservation of our resources, by a greater intensity and diversity of production—in short, by planning ahead, we could both feed our third million and increase our export wealth. But do we look like doing it?

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