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War Economy

Zoning and Rationalisation of Road Transport

Zoning and Rationalisation of Road Transport

Early in the war some firms had voluntarily curtailed or zoned delivery services in response to petrol restriction and other shortages. If these and other voluntary measures had been considered inadequate, powers already existed to bring taxis and town carriers under control. However, not until after the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 had emphasised the length and bitterness of the coming struggle, did zoning become a part of official policy. The Delivery Emergency Regulations of August 1940 gave the Minister of Supply power to apply zoning schemes to traders’ deliveries of goods, such as bread, milk, coal and groceries, in any given area. By 1942, seventeen zoning schemes were in operation.

Passenger services and goods services running out of or between towns had been licensed since 1932 and 1933 respectively under the Transport Licensing Act 1931. By the Transport Law Amendment Act 1939, town carriers, taxis and certain classes of trucks were brought under the Act, thus making virtually all forms of road transport service subject to control. In fact, however, full control was concentrated on goods services, while voluntary zoning and rationalisation applied, in the main, to passenger transport services and taxis.

As a result of the extreme shortages of road transport supplies in 1942, transport services were more rigorously controlled. New regulations on 24 June gave the Minister very wide powers.2 New Zealand was to be divided into districts, each with a Goods Transport Control Committee, whose function was:

To receive orders for the carriage within its district of goods or stock by motor vehicles.


To allocate such orders among available goods service licensees, having regard to the necessity of conserving motor vehicles and supplies of motor spirits and tyres and the

page 420 desirability of making a fair and equitable allocation among the available licensees.’

The regulations made similar provisions for taxis. Another regulation tightened up existing arrangements to eliminate or zone delivery services.1

The zoning and rationalisation measures embodied in the June 1942 regulations were not considered sufficient to meet the deteriorated supply position, and new economy measures were sought. In the following month, for example, a maximum speed limit of 40 miles an hour was imposed with a view to minimising the wear and tear on tyres.2

A ministerial assessment of the measures taken in 1942 was reported in a Wellington daily paper:3

‘The former Minister of Transport (Mr Semple) in an interview today, said he was relinquishing the portfolio of Transport at a most critical period in road traffic, generally brought about by shortages of tyres and petrol, but that he had every confidence that his successor, Mr O'Brien, and those engaged in the road transport industry, would be able to overcome the difficulties that lie ahead.

‘“Some three or four months ago,” said Mr Semple, “I was entrusted with the task of organising the road transport industry on a basis which would meet the precarious situation which faced the industry as a result of the tyre shortage. I travelled the length and breadth of this country addressing meetings of the parties concerned and giving, as far as I was able to do, a complete picture of the situation with which the industry was faced. As a result of the measures deemed necessary to safeguard the industry, the transport licensing authorities, goods transport control committees, and the zoning officers have given excellent service.

‘“I am now in a position to say that the action taken has resulted in an actual saving of 25,500,000 vehicle miles without any serious interference with our national volume of production, so much of which has, of course, been built up on road transport. This saving represents approximately 2,500,000 gallons of petrol and over 6,000 commercial tyres.”’

The Goods Transport Control Committees continued in operation until August 1945. Petrol rationing was abolished in June 1946, but was reintroduced in November 1947, rationing being left to page 421 resellers. This method proved unsatisfactory, and, in March 1948, the wartime coupon system was reinstituted until the final abolition of petrol rationing in May 1950.

2 The Transport Control Emergency Regulations (1942/190).

1 The Delivery Emergency Regulations (1942/191).

2 The Traffic Emergency Regulations 1942 (No. 2) of 29 July 1942. The supply position for tyres is discussed more fully in Chapter 6.

3 Evening Post, 23 December 1942. See also Parliamentary Paper H–40, Annual Report of the Transport Department, 1943, p. 3.