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War Economy

The Need for New Industries

The Need for New Industries

To meet the needs for war production, it would not be enough to safeguard supplies to existing industries. Wartime pressures would require the rapid emergence of new industries. Most important was the possibility that New Zealand, in the event of war, might have to manufacture her own munitions, because of the preoccupation of traditional suppliers with their own country's requirements. Even in 1938, British manufacturers were in some cases not able to fulfil New Zealand orders for war materials.

The manufacture of munitions in New Zealand would however require the accumulation of reserves of iron and steel, while suitable equipment would have to be purchased and installed. Not much was accomplished before the outbreak of war, even though it had become apparent by early 1939 that military equipment in New Zealand was inadequate for mobilisation and that the deficiency could not be made good from overseas.

The Defence Conference in April 1939 recommended that New Zealand's capacity to make military equipment should be explored,1 but still no direct action was taken.

To meet wartime changes in demand, new methods might be necessary in the processing of New Zealand exports. The possibility of a sudden order for canned foods for the United Kingdom or for forces serving overseas was visualised, and tinplate to the value of £42,000, together with a smaller quantity of lead, was purchased and stored for this purpose.

New industries would also be necessary to provide essential civilian requirements in cases where overseas supplies might be cut back in time of war. This would apply particularly to metal-working industries which, overseas, were likely to be preoccupied with war supplies. Little direct action was taken, though the Government's policy was to encourage manufacturing, and New Zealand industry probably became more versatile under the influence of diversification brought about by pre-war import restrictions.

1 Wood, op. cit., p. 87.