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War Economy

Transport Developments

Transport Developments

The war tended to emphasise the importance to New Zealand of its railway service, which, though it might in normal times lose ground to more versatile methods of transport, could carry a vastly increased load in times of national emergency.

Transport in New Zealand has been relatively expensive, both in terms of capital development and operating costs,4 but efficient transport is essential for a successful war effort or for a satisfactory rate of economic development in peace.

4 Transport Department paper, Transport in New Zealand, p. 14.

page 567

While the predominantly undulating nature of much of the surface of New Zealand has always been a serious hindrance, the position has been eased by the early construction of an efficient railway service, which has done much to reduce costs to producers. A White Paper on road transport said:1

‘Much of New Zealand's economic development has been due to its extensive railway network (some of it in areas where traffic was never likely to be plentiful) and to the railways' willingness to carry large volumes of goods at low prices.’

After making a major contribution to New Zealand's war effort the Railways Department has adopted a progressive policy, suitable for the period of recovery and development of the economy.

Reference has been made to the influence of wartime coal shortages in hastening Railways Department investigations into alternative sources of power for locomotives.2 By March 1949, 51 locomotives had been converted to oil burners and 46 miles of suburban lines had been electrified. In the early 1950s the much more efficient diesel locomotives were introduced, and by 1961 were hauling over 40 per cent of the freight traffic.3 By this time, too, 68 miles of suburban railways had been electrified.

To provide an improved service between North Island and South Island stations, the Railways Department developed the Rail-Air Freight Service, connecting the rail services of the North and the South Island with a quick-loaded air freight plane service. First flights in this service were made by the RNZAF in 1947, and the service is now maintained by private contractors to the Railways Department.

In August 1962 the Department introduced a roll-on ferry service for rail and road vehicles from Wellington to Picton, with the m.v. Aramoana. The service has proved so successful that a second vessel is to be added.4

For passengers, air travel was becoming increasingly popular. Air services had been reduced during the war. New planes were not available for civilian work and some of those already in use were commandeered.5 However, improvements in plane design and development of aerodromes and navigational aids during the war, and the availability of large numbers of trained pilots among ex-servicemen, facilitated post-war development of civil aviation. In 1961–62, 842,000 passengers were carried; more than five times as many as in 1947–48.

1 Parliamentary Paper H–40a, Transport of Goods by Road in New Zealand, 1959, p. 7.

2 p. 415.

3 Estimated in gross ton-miles.

4 This decision was announced in December 1963.

5 See also p. 415.

page 568

Increasing use of the private motor car was a more important influence arresting the growth in numbers of railway passenger journeys.1 After a decline, the number of journeys in the early 1960s, at rather more than 26 million a year, was about the same as in the late 1940s.2

There had been no significant improvement in the standard of waterfront work in New Zealand during the war, in spite of the introduction of co-operative stevedoring. In fact in some ways, for example because of the incidence of ‘spelling’,3 the position was less satisfactory after the war than before.

After a prolonged dispute on the waterfront in 1951, a Royal Commission inquired into the waterfront industry and reported in 1952. As a result, the Waterfront Industry Act 1953 set up new controlling bodies, in the hope of increasing efficiency in loading and unloading vessels. Some improvement followed.

Nevertheless, the waterfront, through which passed each year two-fifths of all the goods New Zealand produced and two-fifths of all she consumed, remained, as it had been during the war, one of the weakest links in the New Zealand economy.

A 1964 report on New Zealand overseas trade contained tables which showed ‘that the time spent by ships in New Zealand discharging outward cargo and loading homeward cargo was of the order of 50 per cent more than the time taken to handle the corresponding cargo in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.’4

1 Motor-car registrations numbered 200,000 in 1946 and 553,000 in 1962. The use of municipal public passenger transport systems was also seriously affected by the increasing number of private motor cars.

2 i.e., after the large-scale military movements had finished.

3 See also pp. 3989.

4 New Zealand Overseas Trade, Report on Shipping, Ports, Transport and Other Services, Producer Boards' Shipping Utilisation Committee, New Zealand, and New Zealand Trade Streamlining Committee, London.