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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III

417 — The Prime Minister to Admiral Halsey4

The Prime Minister to Admiral Halsey4

10 March 1944

As you will have been advised from Washington, the Combined Chiefs of Staff have agreed that New Zealand's manpower position must be re-examined in relation to the urgent needs of food production for the United Kingdom and Allied forces in the Pacific and Europe, as well as the maintenance of various forces overseas.5 The Chiefs of Staff have now been advised as follows:

page 432

‘The essential minimum requirement of additional manpower for farms, dairy factories and freezing works is 10,650, made up as follows:

Dairying and Pig Production 7000
Meat and Wool 1000
Mixed Cropping and Stock 500
Vegetables and Fruit 300
Ancillary Occupations
Butter and Cheese Factories 250
Freezing Works 1500
Food Processing Plants 100

It will, however, not be possible to utilise these men unless accommodation is also provided, and it is estimated that the minimum number required for rural housing and ancillary occupations is 1950. The total required for food production is, therefore, 12,600.

‘It is estimated that 7000 of these men can be absorbed at once. In any event, unless that number is available as from 1 July, the commencement of the season, it will not be possible for essential farming operations to commence. The remainder of the men could be absorbed at the rate of 2000 a month thereafter.

‘In addition to those required for agricultural production, other essential occupations are seriously handicapped by the lack of men, and unless the labour force in certain of these industries is augmented the efforts to increase farm production will be largely nullified. For instance, unless more coal can be produced it will not be possible to move fertilisers or the actual produce, and unless staff are returned to the railways it will not be possible to provide the additional rolling stock required. Similarly, unless certain essential hydro-electric developments in the North Island are pushed ahead, industrial activity cannot be sustained and farm machinery cannot operate owing to lack of electric power. Moreover, apart from the minimum, and possibly temporary, rural housing referred to above, certain other housing projects must be provided to meet the demands of high priority industries. The numbers of men required for the purposes set out in this paragraph are as follows:

Sawmilling 800
Coal mines 300
Hydro-electric development 800
Railways 1000
Housing 2000

‘The total number of men required from the armed forces over and above those now being directed from less essential to essential industries is therefore 17,500.

page 433

‘The New Zealand Government agree that the time of withdrawal of any troops in the forward areas must be dependent on strategic considerations. They would, however, point out that as the major portion of the 3rd Division have been serving under tropical conditions for nearly three years, and most of the men have been in forward areas since September 1943, this force is now due for withdrawal and rest, and that if men of the 3rd Division are to be used for food production, then, as stated above, 7000 are definitely required to commence work as from July.’

The New Zealand Government have also advised the Combined Chiefs of Staff that they are anxious to discuss the whole matter with you at the earliest possible date, and it would be appreciated if you or your representative could find it possible to visit New Zealand for the purpose of examining these matters with the Government, or if that is not practicable at the present moment the Ministers concerned could fly to your headquarters.

I would be most grateful for an early reply.

4 Repeated to General Barrowclough through the New Zealand Chiefs of Staff representative at South Pacific Force headquarters (Colonel Salmon).

5 During January and February Mr Nash had discussions in Washington and London with President Roosevelt and Mr Churchill. His reports on these negotiations are published in Vol. II, Maintenance of 2nd New Zealand Division; the Replacement Scheme (Nos. 359, 362, 3668, 370, 3725). These messages should be read in conjunction with this section.