War Nears New Zealand
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 26 Feb 1942, p. 282-294
Mackenzie, Sir Clutha, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A description and history of New Zealand, and the Maoris. The role New Zealand has played in the war. Participation in the Empire Air Training Scheme. Actions in Greece, Crete, and Libya. New Zealand politics, agriculture, taxation, government. New Zealand's compulsory War Loan. New Zealand men involved in the war effort. The Japanese threat to New Zealand. Keeping the enemy at bay.
Date of Original
26 Feb 1942
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Empire Club of Canada
WWW address
Agency street/mail address

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
Chairman: The President, Mr. C. R. Sanderson.
Thursday, February 26, 1942

MR. C. R. SANDERSON: Gentlemen: As you will of course have noticed, our Speakers' Committee has been endeavouring to cover every phase of the world situation, and today we are very happy to welcome as our Guest Speaker, Sir Clutha Mackenzie, who comes to us from New Zealand. I think you who are in this hall already know, but may we remind our listeners on the air, that Sir Clutha Mackenzie was a Member of Parliament, having been a Member of the House of Representatives in New Zealand; that he served in the last war, served when he was still only in his 'teens; that his sight was destroyed in Gallipoli. But to him there was no turning back. He immediately took up Braille, as soon as he was well enough he learned to use a typewriter, and then edited a magazine for the New Zealand troops.

Today he comes to talk to us on the topic, "War Nears New Zealand", and Gentlemen, nation after nation, country after country, has been saying in the past, "It can't happen here". As day by clay goes by, fewer and fewer rations can possibly say that. Probably today no nation is daring enough to say that. So, we are particularly happy to have Sir Clutha Mackenzie come to us and talk on the topic, "War Nears New Zealand". Gentlemen: I give you Sir Clutha Mackenzie. (Applause.)

SIR CLUTHA MACKENZIE: Mr. President, Gentlemen, may I thank you very warmly indeed for your kind welcome to me today and for the generous words in which you have introduced me, Mr. President.

New Zealand was one of the last areas of land in the world to which the genus homo sapiens reached. It was discovered only about a thousand years ago by Polynesian people. The courageous Maori race, facing 1400 to 2000 mile voyages across stormy seas from their islands in the Eastern Pacific, settled the country. They tied together pairs of large canoes, decked them over, set sails and navigated by astronomical observation. When they came to New Zealand they found there a land, fresh and pure, scintillating with virgin beauty, untouched hitherto by man. Great ranges of mountains rose to a permanent snowline. The mountain sides were clothed with a beautiful forest, of a type we do not know in Europe or North 'America or even in our neighbouring continent, Australia,--a semi-tropical rain forest. Great trees met together in a mass overhead, and underneath all the space was filled with filmy and luxuriant ferns, and with palms and creepers and lilies clinging to the trunks of the bigger trees. Every acre of it was the most beautiful botanical collection. Frequent rains provided clear crystal streams, rivers, and lakes. The warm valleys and bays facing the sun made the country ideal for human habitation. There was nothing in the nature of wild animals, no malaria, no disease, no snakes. It was an ideal country.

The Maoris settled there in tribal society and brought with them one of those accompaniments of human nature, war. They were permanently at war with each other, fighting for the fishing grounds, and for the forests which bred the birds upon which they lived. There was little in the way of native fruits or roots, and no cereals. They lived on fish and birds and on the sweet potatoes that they brought with them from the South Sea Islands. So it was when the first European discovered New Zealand, Abel Tasman, a Dutch navigator, in the year 1642. He did not land. His only attempt was frustrated by his boat's crew being massacred by the natives, and he sailed away.

The next European, the first to land, was Capt. James Cook. He had instructions, after observing a transit of Venus in Tahiti, to sail across the Southern Seas and to fall in with what land he might. He came to New Zealand. He explored it and was extremely attracted by its beauty, by its temperate climate, and by the natives themselves. He paid three visits altogether. He charted the coasts. He went to the great inconvenience of taking hogs, as well as vegetable seeds for the Maori people. He hoisted the Union Jack and took possession in the name of Britain. But Downing Street was not interested. New Zealand was far away. For seventy years it remained a lawless no man's land. Whalers and sealers came in great numbers in the early nineteenth century. The coasts of the outlying islands were rich in seals and the sea plentiful with whales. They used the harbours as the bases of their operations and many a sailor ran away from that hard life to live with the Maori people, to help with their wars, and to enjoy the ease of the Maori lite.

Missionaries came, too, and endeavoured by piety, example, and instruction, to offset the evil influence of these beach-comber whites. In the early 1820's they petitioned the British House of Commons to take possession of New Zealand formally. The Duke of Wellington replied that Britain was satiated with colonies and wanted no more. So it continued to be a no man's land until the year I840. Shortly before then the Maori chiefs themselves, deeply concerned with the degeneration among their people, at their lack of protection from land-grabbing whites, and so on, petitioned Queen Victoria to take control of New Zealand, to give them the benefits of law and order. They, on their part, would give her their loyalty as subjects if she would give them protection of their rights and their land. This bargain was made and the terms were embodied in the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in the year 1840, which marks the beginning of ordered government in New Zealand. Throughout the hundred years since, the terms of that treaty have been observed generously by both parties, Maori and white. The Maori people still own a great deal of the land and have equal citizenship with the whites and they are among the most loyal citizens of the British Commonwealth.

Well-planned settlements soon followed. Societies were founded in Britain by the churches to send out people to this new land. They faced a long six months' voyage. They carved their homes out of the forests, just as the early Canadians did here.

New Zealand proved to be a magnificent stock raising country. The people from Britain brought with them all the solid, respectable Victorian culture and there was no break in the continuity of that way of life. Universities, schools, law courts, fine towns well-planned, were immediately built, and the whole tendency of the New Zealand policy was to carry on the liberal outlook of Scotland, the great bulk of the settlers being Scottish. As I said, the land has proved to be a magnificent stock raising country and that has been the source of our wealth. Our climate is temperate. It is never unduly hot, never extremely cold. The steady rainfall all round the year produces magnificent pasture, and Great Britain, sacrificing her own agriculture back in those years, gave a completely free market to all we produced. That made us wealthy. We were able to produce great quantities of meat, wool, hides, cheese, and butter, in that climate, with a minimum of labour.

Gradually we developed our political life. Thirteen years after that Treaty of Waitangi was signed, Great Britain handed the Government over to us and we have been a self-governing colony or Dominion ever since. We have nothing but thanks to give Great Britain for the generous manner in which she has treated us in New Zealand. You know, probably, our part in the British Commonwealth--a free democracy striving for maintenance of all those things we hold so dear. We have been, perhaps, about the most radical area within the British Empire in improving social conditions,--pensions, education, and so on,--until today, in these matters, I think we actually lead the field.

We have also, along with our sister Dominions, done our best in the defence of Empire and Democracy. In the years since the last World War, we, in common with others, have neglected our defence. We suffered from the same violent reaction against war. We supported the League of Nations. We believed in the essential humanity of man and his dislike of war and we have concentrated upon building up a delightful country in which everybody should enjoy the full fruits of the earth. Even as late as 1938 we were ignoring the writing on the wall.

Socialist governments are apt to be self-centred and to be short-viewed. Most of their members grow up in a parochial environment, keenly interested in removing the immediate social evils they see in front of them, and, normally they do not give enough consideration to the wider field beyond their frontiers. So it was in New Zealand, but when this war came, our Government, Socialist as it was, turned fully to giving all the aid we could and taking our full part in the war. We, of course, in New Zealand, criticize some of the ways in which the Government is carrying on the war policy. That is our democratic privilege. I know there is criticism in Canada, too. In New Zealand we deeply admire the war effort being made in Australia and the war effort of Canada. I find in Australia that they equally criticize their own and look upon the magnificent way in which New Zealand and Canada are doing their part. Here it is the same. You feel dissatisfied with yourselves and you look with admiration upon New Zealand and Australia This dissatisfaction is healthy. We will note that, in all of them, in our Dominions as in Britain, it is dissatisfaction, not with the extent of the war effort but with its lack. We all want to be doing more. We all want our countries to be putting forth the supreme effort. It is easy for us to criticize. We know the difficulties of governments. We expect them in wartime to do in thirty days what we would regard as impossible to do in years of peacetime. But that is our privilege and that is, as I say, a healthy dissatisfaction, leading always to better effort on the part of all of us.

It would he tedious if I were to give a catalogue of what New Zealand is doing in the war. We are, of course, taking our part in the Empire Air Training Scheme. May I take advantage of this opportunity to thank you most warmly indeed for the kind hospitality and generosity you have shown our boys who are in Canada under that scheme. As to the Army, we have played our part in the fortunes of war in the heavy actions in Greece, in Crete, and in Libya. Our Navy has taken its share and one of its proud achievements was the action in which H.M.S. Achilles of the New Zealand Navy distinguished herself in the Battle of the River Plate.

We are not an industrial country. Agriculture is our main activity, and we are producing about 20 to 25 per cent more agricultural products than in peace time and supplying them to Britain at, I think, almost no more than the actual pre-war level of prices. Britain is carrying the burden of the extra cost of freight. Our woollen factories are at maximum pressure, turning out uniforms and military requirements for our troops and for other forces thoughout the Empire.

Our taxation is heavy. We have a socialist government and its policy is to pay for the war as far as possible, as we go along and so far we have succeeded pretty well in paying for it from our own internal resources. Some of the taxation figures might interest you. At the $4,000 level, the ordinary income tax, the social security taxes, and the war taxes, amount to $1,020 per annum--slightly over a quarter. That is if that income is earned. If it comes from investments, the tax is 3313 per cent higher, or $1,360. If your income is $20,000 earned, the tax is nearly $11,000. And if it is unearned, if it comes from investments, $14,645. That is practically three-quarters. When your income, if you are lucky enough, reaches the figure of $80,000 a year, if it is earned, which it is not likely to be--(applause)--the tax is $58,000, leaving you $22,000 to live on. But if that income comes from investments, if you have not earned it, the tax figure actually reaches $77,867. But a kindly, considerate government has passed an over-riding clause which says no man will be called on to pay more than 872 per cent of his income as taxation, so you will escape with a payment of $70,000.

In addition to that, we have our compulsory War Loan. Perhaps one of you gentlemen here might be willing, as a friendly gesture of hands across the Pacific, to exchange $5,000 of your War Loan for $5,000 of mine. I can't get a cent of New Zealand money over here and it would be a very kindly action. I must tell you, to be quite frank, that that War Loan of ours has the attractive feature that it is interest free. I hope I am not giving the Government of -Canada any bright ideas, but I am certain they have filed here in Ottawa the full details of the taxation in all the other Dominions. Our Government in New Zealand has studied them all. Our Government has brought into force every form of taxation likely to bet all the pennies we have to spare. The Compulsory Loan runs in this fashion. In addition to your income tax you pay to the Government an amount equal to your income tax, less $800, and the terms of that loan are that it is interest free for three years, after which it carries two and a half per cent for ten years. The Government says it believes the saturation point in the taxation of the community has been reached.

On the matter of service, here are just a few figures. I won't give you many. The number overseas some months ago was 60,000 men out of our population of just over 1,600,000, which I think, is about double the population of this great City of Toronto. At that time there were in training or overseas a total of 113,000 men. Men in the home guard and in the national defence and in the civic defence, and women in the various defence forces, brought the grand total at that time to 326,000 men and women, which amounts to one-fifth of our total population. The Maori troops are entirely voluntary. They volunteer freely and 5,000 have volunteered in this war, which represents a substantial contribution from the 90,000 Maoris in New Zealand-38 per cent of the men of military age.

Colonel Baker, my old friend, asked me to tell you a story which I told him many years ago. My father was High Commissioner in London in the last war and he was visiting a New Zealand Hospital one Sunday. On the lawn he was delighted to see one of our Maori men who had lost both legs, walking along stiffly with his new artificial limbs and the help of two sticks. My father said, "Hello Waitoa! I am delighted to see you getting on so well. You will soon be able to board a hospital ship for New Zealand". The Maori answered, "O, please sir, stop them from sending me back to New Zealand. I can join the Mounted Rifles. I can do anything. I don't want to go home". My father said, "Well, you have done your share. You are badly wounded. You ought to go home and rest".

"But", declared Waitoa, "no; if I go home, this will be the story: as the coach comes down the hill to my village in the bush and I get off, the people in the village, the old men and the women and the children, will come running to meet me, and they will say, 'Haeremai' (welcome); 'we are glad to see you home. So the war is over, Waitoa?' And I would have to say, 'I am home, but the war is not over'. They would look sadly and reproachfully at me and they would say, 'Waitoa! Waitoa!, why then are you here?'

The Japanese threat to New Zealand is a long standing one, though there are comparatively few people in our country who have faced it seriously. Back in I921 I read some of the statements and the writings of the more outspoken Japanese, the essence of which was that the Japanese had then a long scale plan of building up armed forces and of embarking upon the policy which would make them one of the world's greatest Empires. The sum opinion of that literature was to the effect that Japan would be in a position to strike out on that policy in 1933, and would then do so. And Japan then did so--Man-chukuo, China, Indo-China, Siam, Pearl Harbour!

We have realized, too, those of us who have given it thought through these years, that our position was extremely precarious. Great Britain had reduced her fleet to a handful of old battleships and a hopelessly inadequate cruiser force. It was that alone which stood between us and Japan. That naval strength, or naval weakness, as it might be called, was doubtfully effective against the development of the air arm. Also, some new instrument of scientific ingenuity might be devised which would render those ships totally obsolete. We knew that, if Great Britain were involved in a great war in Europe, or worse still, defeated, there was nothing to prevent Japan from walking into New Zealand and Australia. There was the possibility of America corning to our defence as a second line, but, in those days, anti-war spirit ran very high in America, and it was extremely doubtful whether her people would permit her Government to come to our rescue. Some of us felt that for a long time, but most of our people ignored that danger.

And now the reality of that danger has come close to us. The Japanese are an ambitious people. They are courageous. They have embarked upon this war in a fervent missionary spirit and they believe they can succeed. During the past two months, their conquest has taken then right down through the Indies, and they have secured the main eastern coast of Asia, except the Russian coast. By the time they have completed the invasion of Burma and Java, they will have achieved the conquest of an extremely strong strategic and economic sphere, guarded on the west by the great central uplands of Asia, by the barrier of mountains between Burma and India, by Sumatra, down to Australia, and down a great long barrier of islands from Japan almost to New Zealand on the east.

After that, various choices lie open to them. They may turn to India, to Vladivostok, to Alaska, to other objectives, but we think the one most likely is southward to Australia and New Zealand. Australia offers to them rich minerals and food and the rounding off of their Empire. .

New Zealand is perhaps the more attractive country to the Japanese. It is the one country in the world which closely resembles Japan. All the trees and crops which grow there will flourish in New Zealand and against the same background of Fujiyama-like peaks. She may extend her line of conquest down through New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, and the Fiji Islands, to New Zealand, and try to get there as quickly as she can in order to forestall the arrival of strong American-reinforcements. Thus she would impose a long island barrier between what she hopes will be her great new economic empire and the counter-attack likely to come from America.

As we sit here this Thursday winter afternoon in Canada, my thoughts travel to my own home in New Zealand. There it is summer, and Friday's dawn,-six or seven o'clock in the morning. At my farm home the fields are still scintillating with dew. The cows are waiting patiently about the barn to be milked. Sheep and horses are grazing in the warm early sunshine. The homestead is sitting there tranquilly on its hilltop, embowered by an orchard--fig, apple, pear, orange, lemon, and peach trees, and grape vines, all heavy laden with fruit. The fields slope down to a blue bay which mirrors a fringe of palm trees, and beyond is the inevitable jagged range of mountains which is the background to all New Zealand scenes. My boys are away on service and the girls are helping on the farm, in the absence of men. My wife is busy with Red Cross and A.R.P. work-just the usual activities with us all these days. But for me, and I suppose I typify everyone in Australia and New Zealand today, there is anxiety in my heart. Out of one of these dawns there may come the menacing drone of squadrons of Japanese planes, bombing defence posts on the coast, machine-gunning farm houses; and those green fields may become battle fields. My farm house may be burned, my wife and daughters turned out on the road or countryside, homeless, weary, and hungry, and possibly worse.

We hope the tide will turn before that comes I find, as I have travelled through the world during this war, that one's attitude towards the war is naturally tremendously influenced by geography and the immediate threat to one's home. There comes a time when mere investments and social conventions, when many of the things we value highly in peace time, seem so trivial, so worthless, and we are prepared to give everything we have, no matter how poor we may be when the war is over, if we can preserve our wives and children from terror-preserve our homes, our livelihood, our freedom. Mr. Winston Churchill has said the day will come when Paris will envy London her ruins.

We have no monopoly on such anxieties or, far worse, the tremendous suffering which is going on today throughout Europe, throughout China and so on. The Germans may murder and pillage and rob, but the people of Europe hold their heads proud, still defying the Germans and waiting for the day when we, who are safe in these countries, can muster a sufficient force and sufficient supplies to take the offensive and bring victory.

I recall that, in the same period of the World War,--early in 1917, the outlook, too, was dark. Russia was collapsing; the morale of France was cracking; Italy had little fight; our expeditions in Mesopotamia, the Dardanelles, and Salonika, had failed. America had not yet come into the war, and, most menacing of all, we had not solved the U-boat problem. The sinkings of ships were reaching 170, 180 and 190 a week, and yet, twenty-one months from that time the Armistice was signed. Victory was ours. It can be so again today, but every one of us must do his share. I know that you here in this room, and our audience over the air, realize that most fully. At this moment, men in tropical jungles are lying wounded, dying of thirst and suffering. Out on the bitter Atlantic boats are adrift. Seamen, their ships sunk, are praying for rescue which may never come. They are holding the thin lines of a long frontier today, keeping the enemy back, depending upon us to bring them fresh strength to enable them to take the offensive, to bring victory, to bring an end to the world's travails! (Applause.)

MR. C. R. SANDERSON: Gentlemen: One of the many things that this war has done has been to replace physical distance by psychological distance, and the Pacific has never been as close to us as it is now. We think of the Dominion of New Zealand, reaching her hands down to the South Pole, just as Canada reaches hers up to the North Pole; two widely separated Dominions, yet, Gentlemen, they have never been closer than they are just now. And I think you will agree with me, after listening to Sir Clutha Mackenzie, that he has today brought them still nearer together.

To Sir Clutha, may I say, on behalf of this audience, that, even before the war, we in Canada looked with admiration on what New Zealand was doing for social security, on what New Zealand was doing to establish the highest possible standard of living for its community as a whole. It is revealing to learn today that a special Act of Parliament has had to be passed to guarantee a subsistence level to those who are in receipt of an unearned income of $80,000 a year, because income taxation has taken nearly all of it. Since the war, Sir Clutha, our admiration and our respect have both been increased for what New Zealand has done in the Navy, for what she has done in the Air Force, for what she has done in the Army. It is good for us to have had the fact driven home to us in Canada that, at this moment, some twenty per cent of all the population of New Zealand is now an active service. (Applause.)

Finally, Sir, may we say that our unbounded admiration and respect go out to the Dominion of New Zealand and her sister Dominion, Australia, for the magnificent way in which, with dignity and resolution, they are facing this new situation in the Pacific. On behalf of this audience, and on behalf of those people who have been listening to us on the air, may I offer our gratitude to you today for your story of your home country and of the Pacific. (Applause.)

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


War Nears New Zealand

A description and history of New Zealand, and the Maoris. The role New Zealand has played in the war. Participation in the Empire Air Training Scheme. Actions in Greece, Crete, and Libya. New Zealand politics, agriculture, taxation, government. New Zealand's compulsory War Loan. New Zealand men involved in the war effort. The Japanese threat to New Zealand. Keeping the enemy at bay.