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War Economy



In all the war years, including periods of greatest stress, when industries were being rigorously examined to see whether they were essential to the war effort or not, New Zealanders had to have their cigarettes, their beer, and their horse racing. Soon after the outbreak of war, the question of the unrestricted continuance of race meetings was raised by various people, but a number of arguments, many of them quite ingenious, were put forward against curtailment. In 1940 there was only one less racing day than there had been in 1939.

There was, however, growing pressure against the full-scale continuance of racing when a maximum war effort was being sought. In January 1941, the first rather timid Government action was taken, when it was decided that permits not used by a club could not be transferred to another club. In June 1941, public opinion was crystallised by the action of a section of the freezing workers at Westfield who decided to take the afternoon off work to go to the races; but it was not until after Japan's entry into the war page 475 in December 1941 that the Government took any firm action. Cuts in the number of racing days were made in two steps, reducing them, by March 1942, to just over half of what they had been in 1939.

In spite of protests against this curtailment, it continued until October 1944. Then, when the war situation looked more hopeful, a further twenty days of racing were allowed. This did not satisfy racing interests, but, because of fuel shortages and other transport difficulties, the Government stood firm.

In 1945 there were 182 racing days compared with 320 in 1939. However, in these 182 days, £12 million was invested on the totalisator as against less than £8 million in 1939. In 1946 the wartime restrictions were removed. Totalisator investments reached almost £20 million in this year, two and a half times their value before the war.