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Government in New Zealand

Appendix To § 6

page 192

Appendix To § 6

The inter-relation of the work of state departments which makes co-ordination so necessary, also makes it difficult to invent categories which will enable the departmental system to be described without obscuring its outlines behind a mass of detail. In official reports, the four categories most commonly used are: Administration, Law and Order, etc.; Social Services; Development Services; Trading Services. The third of these categories includes departments with powers of control over industry, which it is more convenient to classify separately.

The first of these categories covers what might be regarded as the basic functions of the State—defence against external enemies and the maintenance of internal order—and in addition those services, such as finance, which are incidental to any complex social organisation. It might be arranged as follows:

General Functions Of Government

  • Defence
  • Army
  • Navy
  • Air
page 163

Each service department is administered by a board consisting of a group of officers presided over by the Minister of Defence. The activities of the three departments are co-ordinated by a Council of Defence including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Supply, the chiefs of the service staffs, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Permanent Head of the Prime Minister's Department.

Internal Order

  • Justice and Prisons
  • Police
  • Transport

The Transport Department comes in this section because, except in the metropolitan areas, it regulates road traffic in the interests of safety and convenience.

Foreign and Imperial Affairs

  • External Affairs
  • Prime Minister's

These two departments are under the same permanent head. The Prime Minister's Department deals with inter-imperial and foreign relations, the External Affairs Department with New Zealand's Pacific dependencies and her mandate over Western Samoa.


  • Treasury
  • Audit
  • Customs
  • Land and Income Tax
  • Stamp Duties
  • Valuation

The Secretary to the Treasury is also a director of the Reserve Bank, a director of the State Advances Corporation, a member of the Council of Defence, and a member page 164of the Local Government Loans Board. This list of the offices he holds, which is not exhaustive, is an indication of the Treasury's primacy, by virtue of its financial responsibilities, among the state departments. The Valuation Department values land for the purposes both of central taxation and local body rating.


  • Internal Affairs
  • Marine
  • Land and Deeds
  • Native
  • Public Service Commissioner's
  • Public Service Superannuation
  • Crown Law
  • Census and Statistics
  • Printing and Stationery

The Internal Affairs Department is the descendant of the Colonial Secretary's Office, which, in the early period of constitutional government in New Zealand, discharged most of the functions of general government. In the process of time many of these functions—as for instance public works, health, and agriculture—have passed to separate departments. The present functions of the Internal Affairs Department are thus a residue rather than a rational grouping. The nature of its origin is indicated by its important constitutional functions. Through it, proclamations are issued summoning, proroguing, and dissolving Parliament; through it, government decisions affecting the whole public service are conveyed to departments; and through it are paid the salaries of ministers of the Crown. Its miscellaneous functions include administration of the game laws, the passport system, and local government (in so far as there is central control in the interests of co-ordination and efficiency). The Marine Department page 165might also be included among the developmental services, since it has powers over the fishing industry.

Social Services

  • Social Security
  • Health
  • Mental Hospitals
  • Education
  • Labour
  • Broadcasting
  • National Provident

The Social Security Department, which came into operation in 1939, supersedes the Pensions Department. What is called the 'social security scheme' includes both allowances for old age, invalidity, etc., and (ultimately) free medical services. On the medical side, the scheme is administered by the Health Department. General hospitals are a national service controlled by local hospital boards over which the Health Department has certain powers of control. It is perhaps unlikely that local control over hospitals will long survive the introduction of free medical services. Education is a nominally localised service; local education boards in theory administer primary, intermediate, and technical schools and employ teachers. Actually, control of education is highly centralised. Broadcasting was until 1936 administered by a board responsible to Parliament; it is now under ministerial control.

Development Services

  • Public Works
  • Lands and Survey
  • State Forest
  • Iron and Steel

The Public Works Department carries out the construction of public buildings, railways, hydro-electric works, page 166irrigation works, and major road works and, through the Main Highways Board, supervises much of the roading work of local authorities. The Railways Department might be included in this category, since railways have always been regarded as a means of promoting development. The Iron and Steel Department is included here because it is in the developmental stage; later it may become a trading department.

Control Of Industry And Assistance To Industry

Primary Industry

  • Agriculture
  • Primary Products Marketing
  • Mines

The Department of Agriculture advises farmers on production methods and combats diseases, blights, and other pests. The Primary Products Marketing Department was set up in connection with the guaranteed prices scheme for dairy produce and has extended its functions rapidly. It now deals with internal as well as external marketing of primary commodities.

Secondary Industry and Commerce

  • Industries and Commerce

The Industries and Commerce Department deals also with tourist resorts and publicity. This apparently incongruous grouping of functions is to some extent justified by the convenience of combining overseas representation for trade purposes with overseas representation for tourist purposes. Until about three years ago, the development of page 167secondary industries was regulated mainly by tariffs, with the result that the Customs Department was far more important in relation to secondary industries than the Industries and Commerce Department. With the advent of a government wishing to control secondary development more directly, and with the adoption of a system of import rationing, the Industries and Commerce Department has become the principal regulating authority for secondary industry. The licensing of industries, provided for in the Industrial Efficiency Act of 1936, is carried out by a Bureau of Industry consisting of officials and representatives of industries. The bureau is concerned mainly, but not exclusively, with secondary industries.

Transport Industry

  • Transport

Systematic regulation of road transport began in 1931 mainly because road competition was adversely affecting the financial position of the railways and the tramways. Licensing has not, however, been merely negative and restrictive; in the last few years the work of the Transport Department has greatly improved the efficiency of road transport by promoting the amalgamation of small units.


  • Labour
  • Scientific and Industrial Research

The Labour Department can be regarded either as a social service or as a regulative service. Its principal function is the enforcement of industrial awards and the factory, shops, and offices laws.

page 168

Trading Services

Monopoly Trading

  • Post Office
  • Railways
  • Public Works (hydro-electric branch)
  • Commercial Broadcasting

Under governments of the left, the railways are regarded primarily as a developmental service and are placed under ministerial control; under governments of the right, they are regarded primarily as a trading concern, to be run on commercial principles with a minimum of 'political' interference. With the development of motor transport, the railway monopoly was seriously weakened; it is now being strengthened by regulation of road transport and by the acquisition of competitive road services by the Department. The hydro-electric branch of the Public Works Department sells power in bulk to power boards and other local supply authorities.

Competitive Trading

  • State Advances
  • Public Trust
  • Government Insurance
  • State Fire Insurance

Most of these services were introduced in the early period of New Zealand's economic development as a means of regulating indirectly the cost to the public of certain services provided by private enterprise.