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War Economy

New Industries

New Industries

Many new manufacturing industries sprang up during the war years. Some of these owed their existence to war conditions, but many were a result of the quantitative controls of imports which had been introduced before the war started. The 1940 annual report of the Department of Industries and Commerce gives the following list of new industries commenced during the year 1939–40:2

‘Some idea of the progress that has been made by local manufacturers to supply the market for goods previously imported can be gained from the following list of products, the manufacture of which has commenced during the past year: Parchment lamp shades, rubberware for milking machines, fruit cases,3 soft goods, tennis shoes, rustproofing, trout fishing flies, iodized table salt, fibrous plaster, tartan novelties, biscuits, bricks and tiles, sewing mops, hosiery, corsets, boxes, springs, inks, handbags, terrazo, nails and staples, paint, paper cartons, rubber solution, zinc oxide, cosmetics, concentrated foods, jellies, toys, bolts and nuts, cornflour, liver salts, pharmaceutical preparations, electrical appliances, batteries, malted milk, lacquers, soap, litharge, mattresses, cottonwool, carpets, carbon-dioxide gas, flock, plastics, buttons, buckles, cigarette papers, tobacco and cigarettes,4 steel wool and potmits,

2 Parliamentary Paper H–44, p. 15.

3 Sic. Perhaps a new factory, but the industry was not new.

4 Sic. Not new. This industry had been producing over £1 million of output for some years. It is probable that this is a list of new factories rather than new industries.

page 176 varnishes and waxes, washing machines, sporting goods, dentifrice, raincoats, electroplated ware, concrete goods, cordials, caravans, block board, veneer panels and mouldings, soldering fluid, valve grinding paste, plastic wood, gasket cement, spoons, forks and butter knives, hat-blocks, gluten, dextrine, glucose and handkerchiefs.’

The obvious tendency towards diversification in New Zealand manufacturing revealed by this list was not an unmixed blessing. Before import controls were imposed, in 1938, New Zealand industries were, in general, operating on too small a scale, and this further tendency towards diversification hindered any move to increase the scale of manufacturing industries. However, diversification increased the range of techniques and skills available to meet war needs.

Some of the effects of war are revealed in the 1943 report,1 which said:

‘The following important additions to our manufacturing industries were made during the year: dehydration of food, linseed oil, fishmeal, fish liver oil, rubber reclamation, macaroni, plastic substitutes for tin, enamel mugs and plates, gasmasks, turret lathes, batteries for hearing aids, power presses.’

An interesting commentary on the fish-liver oil industry is given in the 1944–45 annual report of the Marine Department:2

‘Among other developments in the utilization of fishery products, hitherto wasted, that have been more or less forced upon us by conditions arising out of the war, the fish liver oil industry is one of the most important and probably has the best chance of continuing to be a good thing in both its commercial and social aspects after the return of normal economic conditions. During the year 1944 a total weight of 544,300 lbs of fish livers was processed at the two established factories for which not less than £24,000 had been paid to fishermen and from which not less than 20,000 gallons of oil were produced. Exports of fish liver oils totalled 19,251 gallons. In the same period 15,340 gallons of cod liver oil and 417 gallons of halibut liver oil were imported. This apparent anomaly perhaps requires explanation. The great cod fisheries of the North Atlantic are the sources of the cod liver oil of commerce which has been used for a great many years in medicine, more especially for the treatment of rickets and respiratory disease. Only in recent years has science provided an explanation of the factors that are responsible for the therapeutic virtues of cod liver oil….

1 Parliamentary Paper H–44, Report of the Industries and Commerce Department, p. 3.

2 Parliamentary Paper H–15, p. 17.

page 177

‘Some of our relatively abundant New Zealand fish provide oils that are richer in vitamins. For example, ling has sixteen times as much A and five times as much D; groper (hapuku) has fifty times the potency in A and twenty-two times in D; kingfish two hundred times as much A and probably about a hundred times as much D. Ling liver oil, like that of the true cod, is relatively easy of extraction, which is not the case with that of groper and kingfish. Livers from various species of shark yield copious amounts of oils that are particularly rich in vitamin A—in some cases up to over one hundred times as much as in cod liver oil—but poor in vitamin D.

‘A large proportion of the oil produced in New Zealand is obtained from vitamin A rich shark livers. Nutritional authorities consider that our ordinary New Zealand diet is deficient in vitamin D, more especially for juvenile and maternity requirements, but there is, or there need be, no deficiency of vitamin A. Shark liver and other oils very rich in vitamin A are thus available for export. And this last statement can be strengthened by adding that practically all the rest of the world is undersupplied, while to the populations of those countries which are the concern of UNRRA, their restoration to anything like normal health is absolutely dependent on their receiving, among the “protective” food factors, increased amounts of this vitamin.’

Some of the new industries established during the war disappeared when the special war needs passed, but most remained in existence and grew in stature. The tendency for the range and depth of New Zealand manufacturing to increase was to continue apace after the war.1

1 It is quite impossible, in this chapter, to deal in detail with all the industrial changes in the war years. Those mentioned here must be regarded as examples only. Many are referred to in other chapters; for example, the processing of a new local crop, linen flax, is dealt with in the farming chapter, the need for extra steel rolling capacity in the supply chapter, and so on. For those who are interested in a particular industry, the alphabetical index may help, but to give even a brief account of every manufacturing industry would need several volumes this size.