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War Economy



Only for a limited range of goods was it necessary to supplement the distribution efforts of the Internal Marketing Division by resort to formal rationing of consumers.

The first consumer item to be rationed was motor spirits. Restrictions were imposed from the outbreak of war and, except for a brief period at the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, continued throughout the war, not being finally abolished until May 1950. The arrangements made and the varying supplies available to motorists are discussed on p. 472.

Apart from a certain amount of panic buying in anticipation of rationing,1 the actual rationing of a particular consumer good often caused interesting reactions on the sales of other goods, as is illustrated by a newspaper report on the public reaction when petrol rationing was intensified, following Japan's entry into the war, in December 1941:2

‘Yesterday morning will long be remembered by bicycle dealers in Wellington and the Hutt Valley. Before the shops had opened for business, groups of anxious-looking people assembled in the hope of acquiring a useful means of transport, even if it was less comfortable than a car. The dealers did brisk business, and by midday it was a matter of extreme difficulty to purchase either a man's or woman's bicycle. One determined suburbanite visited five shops in Lower Hutt and Petone before he succeeded in making a purchase, and was told it was the last machine in that shop. Another dealer stated that his house phone rang incessantly after the petrol announcement on Saturday night, and when he opened his shop yesterday morning his first task was to label every bicycle with the name of the man who had arranged its purchase. He had a shop full of machines, all were sold, much to the chagrin of the steady stream of would-be purchasers who continued to call. Some dealers have telegraphed all parts of New Zealand in the hope of securing stocks.’

The result of this was a government attempt to husband stocks of men's bicycles for possible army use.3

1 See, for example, pp. 64 and 418.

2 Dominion, 16 December 1941.

3 According to a report on 15 December from Christchurch, published in the Dominion.

page 466

Motor tyres, as we have seen,1 were reserved for priority users and for a while became unobtainable for private motorists, but at no stage was there the orderly allocation to motorists which was adopted for petrol with the coupon system.

1 p. 139.