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Official Guide to the Government Court: N.Z. Centennial Exhibition

Public Works Department

Public Works Department

It is particularly fitting that New Zealand's centennial finds the Public Works Department carrying out the largest programme of work in its history, for the Dominion owes no small part of its progress to the organisation which has been responsible for constructing its railways and roads, harnessing its hydro-electric supplies, erecting its public buildings and aerodromes, and generally meeting the need for irrigation, river protection, land reclamation, flood control and the many other public works necessary for the development and well-being of the country.

The general functions of the Public Works Department may be said to consist of national and local works which are not within the usual scope of private enterprise. If, in the interests of the people, the Government decides to open up settlement or facilitate agricultural, pastoral, or industrial expansion, it is the Public Works Department which is called upon to investigate the possibilities, formulate proposals, and carry the projects through to completion.

In earlier years, roading was an urgent necessity for the purpose of opening up-new areas for settlement and for transporting supplies and produce. Then came the railway era, when, subsequent to the establishment of communities and the increased output in primary production, an improved medium of transport became essential page 62 not only to provide quicker means of travel but also to transport the greater quantities of produce and material which could not be economically handled by horse-drawn road-vehicles.

The advent of motorised traffic accentuated the need for good roads, and gradually the Dominion's arterial and secondary routes have been improved, until to-day, modern, safe highways traverse the country from end to end, linking centres of industrial activity with the remotest farming areas and bringing our magnificent scenic attractions within easy reach of the city dweller.

Another phase in New Zealand's progress in which the Public Works Department has played a distinguished part is the harnessing and development of hydro-  electric power. From a humble beginning, this great industry has gone ahead rapidly, and the country's prosperity is strikingly reflected in the ever-growing demand for electricity, to meet which the Department has erected—and continues to expand—a network of transmission lines conveying power from the sources of generation to the far corners of the Dominion.

The construction and maintenance of public buildings is a function of the Department, and since earliest times practically all buildings for housing State Departments and Institutions have been designed and erected by, or under the supervision of, officers of the Public Works Department. Many notable public buildings now grace the country's architecture.

More recent activities of the Department include irrigation and aerodrome construction. Large areas in the South Island have benefited considerably from the scientific application of water to the soil, and productivity has thereby been increased enormously. Aerodromes, both civil and military, have been erected throughout the Dominion, and a chain of emergency landing grounds is being prepared.

In national emergencies, such as earthquake and flood disasters, the Department's organisation has been to the fore in urgent rehabilitation work, and, on the other hand, it has been responsible for Dominion-wide arrangements for the decoration of public buildings, etc., incidental to official celebrations.

As New Zealand has progressed so also has the Department improved its methods of carrying out its work. Modern plant and machinery is increasingly being used, and new innovations are continually being introduced and put into prac- tice by the technical staff, most of whom have been trained in the service but keep up to date with the latest developments abroad in their respective professions.

Administrative officers of the Public Works Department, 1939-40:—

Minister of Public Works Hon. R. Semple
Engineer-in-Chief and Under-Secretary J. Wood, C.M.G., M.I.C.E.
Assistant Engineer-in-Chief A. J. Baker, M.I.C.E.
Assistant Under-Secretary N. E. Hutchings, C.B.E.
Chief Electrical Engineer F.T. M. Kissell,B.Sc.,A.M.I.C.E.,M.I.E.E.
Government Architect J. T. Mair, A.R.I.B.A.