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War Economy

Facilities for Pre-war Planning

Facilities for Pre-war Planning

New Zealand had received the first reminder about the need for pre-war planning at the Imperial Conference in London in October 1930. Perhaps planning can be said to have started in October 1933 when the Prime Minister, George Forbes, announced a decision to form a New Zealand section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The New Zealand committee had its first meeting in November 1933, but time passed without real action, and as late as March 1937 nothing had been achieved. At this stage a general scheme was approved and in May 1937 three bodies, the Organisation for National Security, the Council of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff Committee, being, respectively, the secretariat for co-ordinating preparations for war, the Cabinet sub-committee advising on those preparations, and the committee responsible for page 32 military co-ordination, were given a common secretary and the means were available for planning. Nevertheless there was still no great encouragement from the Government and certainly very little indication of its views on manpower or other problems in war.

In the course of 1938 the secretarial work connected with planning for war was gradually taken over by the departments likely to be concerned, but until 1939 the Government does not seem to have faced up to the necessity to prepare actively for war. Even then it was not willing to give any guide to policy on what would be the major wartime problem, the use of manpower.

Plans for action by all Government departments in the transition from war to peace were to be embodied in the War Book. As early as the Imperial Conference of 1930, attention was drawn to the fact that New Zealand had achieved nothing towards its War Book. The position became more pointed at the 1937 Imperial Conference. By this time a number of Commonwealth countries had made progress, but New Zealand still lagged.

There were occasional Government statements of intention and calls for action, but, even by 1938, almost nothing had been accomplished. The first really effective work on the War Book was done in September 1938, the month of Munich. But tension eased a little and the work slowed up again. It was not until July 1939 that the War Book was complete.