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War Economy

The Crisis Passes

The Crisis Passes

Eventually the southward push of the Japanese in the Pacific was slowed up and stopped. As early as the end of 1942, the Chiefs of Staff had been able to report that an invasion of New Zealand could no longer be regarded as even a ‘remote probability’.1

The home army was allowed to decline progressively in numbers from its peak in September 1942.

The critical stage of defence construction work had passed, but for some time there were to remain considerable strains on the building and construction industry. A large programme of defence works remained to be done and stocks of many materials had been depleted in the critical period. Moreover, much important civilian work had fallen into arrears and would soon have to receive higher priority in the construction programme.

Urgent work still to be done included expansion of munitions manufacturing, linen flax factories, food-processing and canning factories, export storage space and the development of hydro-electric schemes to meet the growing shortage of electric power.

Recognising the change in emphasis, the Government created a Ministry of Works in March 1943, and Mr Fletcher relinquished his powers as Commissioner of Defence Construction to become

1 Parliamentary Paper D–3, Ministry of Works Report, 1946, p. 8.

page 250 Commissioner of Works.1 Broadly, the functions of the new Ministry of Works were to establish priorities for government or subsidised construction works and to ensure that such works were carried out efficiently.

Labour regulations were also broadened in their scope. With the decreasing proportion of military work being carried out, the special working conditions on this work tended to cause friction when it was done alongside other work where the requirements were less rigid. In June 1943 the order fixing conditions for defence construction work gave way to a more general order covering a wide range of defence and civilian priority work.2 A minimum 48-hour week was to apply. On this broader front, the Building Controller continued to decide priorities and to control the issue of permits.

1 He returned to private enterprise in December 1944.

2 The Defence Works Labour Legislation Suspension Order 1942 gave way to the Essential Building Works Labour Legislation Modification Order 1943.