The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 9 (February 25, 1927)
Annual Conference Divisional Superintendents and District Traffic Managers. — Opening Function
Annual Conference Divisional Superintendents and District Traffic Managers.
The Acting Minister of Railways (the Hon. F. J. Rolleston) was present at the opening of this year's staff conference on 26th January when a full gathering of Divisional Superintendents and Traffic Officers met to review the work of the year. The conference was of particular importance in view of the changes anticipated as a result of the work of the Regrading Committee which has been busily engaged for months past in assessing the value of traffic positions throughout the service.
Mr. J. Mason, Member of the Board of Management, in welcoming the Honourable Minister, expressed, on behalf of the Board, Divisional Superintendents, and District Officers, their pleasure that Mr. Rolleston had been able to spare time from the cares of office to attend their meeting for the purpose of seeing something of the manner in which conference matters were handled. He was sure they all appreciated the attention and sympathetic consideration given by Mr. Rolleston to all railway matters brought before, him whilst acting as Minister of Railways during the absence of the Prime Minister, and were pleased that he had been able officially to open the conference.
Mr. Rolleston, in his opening remarks, expressed thanks for the very kind introduction and said how pleased he was to meet them all personally before the general work of the conference was undertaken. He regretted very much the absence of Mr. Harris, who, as General Superintendent of Transportation, had presided over their deliberations in previous years, and felt sure every member of the conference would deeply sympathise in the misfortune which had overtaken him.
Regarding railway administration, Mr. Rolleston reminded them that he was only filling the place temporarily, and that it was therefore impossible for him to address them on points of policy. He would consequently confine himself to a few general and personal remarks. He wished first to express thanks for the good work they had done in building up the service to the point which it had now reached. He recognised that with those present had rested responsibility for the direction and control of an important part of the functioning of the railways, and to them, therefore, must be given much of the credit for the success achieved.
For many years the careful, reliable, and efficient work of the District Managers, although unadvertised, had served to maintain the high reputation of the Department, but much of this good work had passed unnoticed. Now, however, there was a changed attitude on the part of the public towards the railways. Possibly the capacity exhibited in handling the business arising out of the Dunedin Exhibition, and in dealing with the great rail traffic of this year's summer season had been partly responsible for, in some degree, acquainting the public with the silent, accurate work performed behind the scenes by those responsible for the efficiency of railway operations. Without their present high state of efficiency in organisation and operation it would be impossible to deal with the great and increasing volume of business which the railways were called upon to transact.
Continuing, Mr. Rolleston said, “I wish to take this opportunity of thanking you for the loyal help given in carrying on the work of the Department during the few months of the Prime Minister's absence. This assistance has been very much appreciated, and I am indebted to you for the fact that I will now be able to hand back the Railways in as good a state as when they were taken over. I shall always remember with pleasure the experience gained during my association with the Railway Department. I trust the conference will be a success, and to use the language employed in the opening of Parliamentary Committees, desire to express the strong hope that Divine providence may direct your work and that real benefit to the whole service may result from your deliberations.” (Applause.)
Mr. Mason then thanked the Acting Minister for his appreciative references to the way in which Divisional Superintendents and District Managers had performed the heavy duties entailed in the management of their Divisions and Districts. Mr Rolleston's remarks he felt sure would stimulate officers to even greater efforts, if that were possible, in raising the standard of service rendered by the Railways to the people of the Dominion. They all deeply appreciated the Hon. Minister's kindly remembrance of Mr. Harris in his present serious illness, and it was the sincere hope and wish of all present that he might be speedily restored to health.
Addressing the Executive officers, Mr. Mason said he felt sure they would devote themselves to the assessment of staff qualifications and positions in the same thorough manner as in previous years, and that they would endeavour to hold the scales of justice evenly in weighing up the merits of the respective officers, for they all knew how much the accuracy of their judgments and decisions meant to every man employed.
In their hands lay to a great extent the possibility of maintaining a contented service. He hoped they would be very successful in carrying through the work before them.
[On 31st January, whilst the Conference was still sitting, word was received that Mr. Harris had passed away. The District Officers present passed a resolution of condolence with the relatives, and adjourned out of respect to the memory of their late leader.]