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War Economy

Settlement on the Land

Settlement on the Land

Profiting by experience after World War I, when many untrained men who had been placed on farms were forced to abandon them, the Government classified applicants according to experience and ability. Inexperienced applicants who were otherwise suitable were given training before being placed on the land. Training farms were established, short academic courses were given for some of the more experienced men, and selected farmers provided training, while paying a wage which was subsidised by the Rehabilitation Board. Where necessary, land was developed before placing ex-servicemen on it.

To facilitate the purchase of land on which to settle ex-servicemen, and also to prevent land speculation and undue increases in land prices, the Servicemen's Settlement and Land Sales Act had been passed in 1943. Besides providing for the compulsory acquisition of land for ex-servicemen,2 the Act regulated the prices

2 Subject to the right of the owner, if farming the land himself, to retain an economic unit.

page 514 of all land sales, fixing the basic value of farm land at its productive value,1 and the basic value of other land at its value on 15 December 1942. These basic values might be increased or diminished to arrive at a fair value.

Land Sales Committees were set up to determine fair values; and land was not to be sold for a higher price. The consent of a committee was required for each transaction.

There was some tendency for sales to be made at figures higher than those fixed by the Land Sales Committee, in cases where the prospective vendor was not willing to sell at that price. The fixed price would be recorded, and the balance paid secretly. A number of cases of extra payments being made came to light and others were suspected.2 However, the Servicemen's Settlement and Land Sales Act did have a restraining effect on prices generally.

In addition, the Small Farms Amendment Act 1940 provided that applications of discharged servicemen were to have preference over other applications for any land made available for selection under the Small Farms Act 1932–33. Similar priority was given in ballots for land under the Land Act 1924.

The Government's policy of developing farm land before handing it over to ex-servicemen slowed up settlement, and gave rise to some impatience. In July 1947 the Minister of Rehabilitation, Mr Skinner, discussed progress. He stated3 that

‘two outstanding problems in connection with rehabilitation which still remained were land settlement and housing. The latest figures had not been released but he indicated that 4,000 ex-Service personnel had been settled on farms “and we still believe, despite criticism from some quarters, that our method of carrying out developmental work on blocks before handing them over to the men is the correct policy.”

‘There was no difficulty in acquiring land for the purposes required, but some years must necessarily elapse before hundreds of thousands of acres of undeveloped land were ready for ex-servicemen. However, the difficulty was to procure sub-divisional materials. The Minister said that the situation in regard to fencing wire, for example, was worse at the moment than at any time during the war. The Government was scouring the world for wire and had been able to obtain only small parcels.

1 Section 53 (3) of the Servicemen's Settlement and Land Sales Act 1943, read: ‘For the purposes of this Act the productive value of any farm land shall be deemed to be an amount equal to the net annual income (as ascertained in the manner provided by this section) that can be derived from the land by the average efficient farmer, capitalised at the rate of four and one-half per centum.’

2 See, for example, NZPD, Vol. 274, p. 821.

3 As reported in Evening Post, 29 July 1947.

page 515

“We are not getting one hundred per cent of New Zealand's requirements,” said Mr Skinner, “and there is no prospect of the situation becoming easier.”

‘However, the fertilizer situation had shown a definite improvement. The end of the shortage of phosphate rock was in sight. The supply of the latter would soon exceed pre-war requirements….’

By March 1948, 641,000 acres of land had been purchased specifically for ex-servicemen, and in addition 75,000 acres of Crown land had been set aside. At this stage, 5100 men had been settled on the land with rehabilitation assistance, while a further 5600 men who had been declared eligible for assistance were awaiting settlement. Ultimately 12,500 were settled with rehabilitation assistance.

The following table summarises the method of settlement of men on the land:

Ex-Servicemen Graded ‘a’ For Farming 1
Position in March 1963 Number
Settled on single units by Rehabilitation Loans Committee 8,799
Settled on land-settlement blocks by Land Settlement Board 3,502
Settled on single units and blocks through Maori Rehabilitation Finance Committee 179
Total settled with rehabilitation assistance 12,480
Settled without rehabilitation assistance 1,067
Assisted by Department of Maori Affairs 89
Awaiting settlement 166
Total graded ‘A’ 13,802

Settlement of ex-servicemen on the land was usually successful. The care taken in selecting and, if necessary, training applicants, and the policy of developing land before handing it over, reduced the possibility of failure. There were a few cases where farms proved to be uneconomic, or where for other reasons the Board had to give further assistance, but, generally speaking, ‘post-settlement problems have been very few in comparison with the assistance granted’.2

1 Adapted from a table on p. 13 of Parliamentary Paper H–18, Report of the Rehabilitation Board, 1963. Men graded ‘A’ were ‘fully experienced and qualified for immediate settlement’.

2 Parliamentary Paper H–18, Report of the Rehabilitation Board, 1963, p. 8.