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War Economy

The Maori War Effort

The Maori War Effort

Recruitment amongst the Maori people for all branches of the armed forces remained on a voluntary basis throughout the war,1 but many thousands of Maoris enlisted,2 and Maoris accepted direction into essential industries.

The Maoris set up their own organisation to encourage a maximum war effort from their own people. A March 1943 statement in the House of Representatives by Mr P. K. Paikea3 summarised its activities:4

‘… When the Maori War Effort Organisation was formed, it was decided that tribal committees should be set up throughout New Zealand, the functions of those committees being to stimulate recruiting among their own immediate tribes and to stimulate production …, and to direct and control manpower in order to assist essential industries. At present there are 121 tribal committees in the Northern Maori Electorate, 135 in the Western Maori Electorate, 102 in the Eastern Maori Electorate, and 23 in the Southern Maori Electorate—a total of 381. I desire to give an indication of their activities. They have put into production, for purposes other than their own immediate needs, 4,933 acres of land, and it is estimated that, on a conservative basis, the land will yield 126,700 bushels of maize, 475 bushels of beans, 3,403 tons of kumaras, 4,992 tons of potatoes, 206 tons of mixed

1 Parliamentary Paper H-11a, Report of the National Service Department, 1946, p. 17.

2 See for example J. F. Cody, 28 (Maori) Battalion.

3 Member of the Executive Council representing the Native Race.

4 NZPD, Vol. 262, p. 353.

page 453 vegetables, 440 tons of pumpkins, and 5,400 pecks of peas. In addition the Maori people have collected approximately 20,000 lb of dried agar seaweed. Since Japan entered the war, this seaweed has been much in demand.

‘… Now I wish to deal with Maori manpower. Under the Maori War Effort Organisation, we have enlisted 5,178 men for overseas service, 2,088 home service, and 10,229 for the Home Guard, which gives a total of 17,495 enlistments in the armed forces. In addition, there is a total of 11,550 now working in essential industries, making a grand total taking part in the defence Forces and in essential industries of 29,043.’2

A National Service Department statement indicates the relationship between the Department and the Maori War Effort Organisation:1

‘The valour of members of the Maori Battalion and Maori members of the Air Force and Navy is widely known. On the industrial front, also, they have contributed much to the achievements of New Zealand's war effort. Maori workers have assisted materially in the manning of seasonal and heavy industries throughout the war period, particularly in the high-priority industries of shearing and meat-freezing. They have been conspicious also in sawmilling, constructional activities, and defence works. Maori men and women have also played their part in urban industries. When the National Service Department commenced its wartime redistribution of the industrial manpower of the Dominion it sought and readily obtained the cooperation of the Maori War Effort Organisation. Special Maori Sections of the National Service offices were established in the main centres of Maori population, and these sections (working in close contact with the tribal committees and with Maori Utilization Committees) were able to secure the willing services of Maori workers in many critically short-staffed industries throughout New Zealand. Maori workers were made subject to manpower direction and control to the same extent as others, and it is worthy of note that virtually all directions issued by District Manpower Officers (who acted in close consultation with the tribal committees and Maori Utilization Committees) were accepted without appeal. The total number of Maoris employed in essential undertakings at 1st April, 1945, is estimated to have been 15,000. Some 10,000 direction orders had then been issued to Maoris.’

There are very few separate references to the Maori people in this volume. Similarly, there are very few separate references to people of European stock. The reason for this is that nearly all

2 Sic. The correct total is 29,045.

1 H-11a, Report of the National Service Department, 1946, pp. 62–3.

page 454 of the statements made refer to New Zealanders, without distinction as to race. The people, irrespective of race, contributed to the war effort, and only where some special arrangement was made for a particular section of the population has it been necessary to make a separate reference.