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War Economy

Belated Hydro-Electric Development

Belated Hydro-Electric Development

Deferred hydro-electric development showed its effects at a most awkward time. Some of the difficulties in extending and completing existing schemes have already been mentioned. The worsening supply position for electric power forced the Government to give page 435 priority to the development of new hydro-electric schemes during the war, when it was most difficult to find sufficient resources for even a fraction of normal development work.

In October 1943, the Government outlined a ten-year plan for electrical development, involving four new stations, to use almost the whole of the fall in the Waikato River from Lake Taupo to Cambridge. The four new stations were to be developed within the next seven or eight years. However, it was too much to hope that rapid development would be possible in wartime. Expenditure was stepped up after 1943, but not until 1952 would the addition of the giant Maraetai to the chain of Waikato stations enable many of the restrictions to be removed.

In the event, hydro-electric development was one of the few aspects of Government construction expenditure, apart from actual defence works, which showed a higher rate of expenditure in the war years than before the war. Even this high level of wartime expenditure was soon to appear moderate as the full impact of the accumulating demand for power made itself felt. What had appeared to be high expenditures in wartime were doubled, tripled, and quadrupled before generating capacity, in the late fifties, showed any sign of getting ahead of demand.