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Lower Hutt Community Centres: Final Statement (1950)

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Chapter 1
The Idea of Community Planning

In this chapter I shall tell how I acquired an interest in consumers' co-operation, health centres, and community centres; how this interest led me to the idea of community planning; and how I took the first step towards initiating a community planning project in the Hutt Valley by promoting a consumers' co-operative society in Naenae.
In January 1938 I joined the staff of the New Zealand Co-operative Wholesale Society, Wellington, as assistant storeman. The Society had just recently (in October of the previous year) begun trading as a wholesale agent for the consumers' co-operative societies in business at that time. Before joining the Wholesale, I must confess that I knew practically nothing of consumers' co-operation. But now I found myself closely associated with the leaders of the movement, and from them soon acquired an understanding of and much enthusiasm for its principles and practices. In fact I rapidly became one of the movement's most active supporters.
I learned that in a consumers' co-operative society the whole of the profits, or surpluses, arising from trading activities remain the property of the members of the society. Part of these surpluses may be used for extending or strengthening the society's trading position. But the remainder - through the operation of the celebrated "consumers' dividend" device - is returned to customer-members in proportion to the amount of their purchases. In England, where the movement is well-established, the "consumers' dividend" has recently amounted to two shillings in the pound, - on the declaration of a dividend, that is to say, two shillings are reimbursed to the customer-members for every pound spent co-operatively by them during the financial period covered by the dividend.
Thus consumers' co-operation, through the consumers' dividend, furnishes a means for raising the standard of living of the general body of consumers by lowering the effective cost of everyday commodities.
I soon began to see, moreover, that consumers' co-operation might under certain conditions be a means of creating even greater savings, through a rationalising of the productive and distributive
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processes involved in the supply of everyday household goods. That there is a field for such rationalising is clear. For example no one can help but be struck by the duplication and overlapping of retail shopping services in any New Zealand town. Two, three, or even more grocery shops may commonly be found within a hundred yards of one another, offering practically identical services. A similar duplication and overlapping obtains with butcheries, greengroceries, chemists' shops, and most other retail outlets. Each of these shops must have its own manager, its independent delivery arrangements (if any), its own telephone, its separate ordering and accounting system, and so on, all contributing to needlessly high overhead charges which must be covered in retail prices.
If, on the other hand, through some means or other, three or four grocery shops trading practically side by side could be replaced by one shop, with adequate facilities for doing the same amount of business, then the elimination of duplicated management, delivery system, and the rest should make it possible to cut overhead costs considerably and effect important overall savings.
Another obvious opportunity for rationalisation is offered in the manufacture and distribution of bread. Most bakeries in New Zealand are small and inefficient; they are too small to use fully mechanised processes and must rely to a great extent upon very expensive (and nowadays uncertain) hand labour. Large, fully mechanised bakeries are much more economical to operate. A large bakery, moreover, if it has most of the custom in an area, can deliver bread to the homes more cheaply than could half-a-dozen small establishments each running its own delivery van up and down the same streets.
In the usual "private enterprise" community, however, little if anything can be done to bring about a rationalising of shopping services, bread making and delivery, and so on. To replace three or four corner groceries by one would mean the granting of a monopoly to the proprietor of the surviving shop; to create an economic bread manufacturing and delivery system for an area would mean closing the field to wasteful small-scale enterprise; and so on. The private monopolies which would thus control the economy
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would not be tolerated, both because it would be unfair to grant exclusive trading rights and benefits to private individuals or interests, and because such private individuals or interests, being responsible to no one but themselves, would be unlikely to give satisfactory service when freed from the spur of competition.
But these objections would disappear if the monopolies created in the interests of efficiency were public ones owned co-operatively and controlled by the members of the community they served and fully responsible to them. For then there could be no question of injustice to would-be competitors, and quality of service could be maintained through the vigilance and control exercised by the customers as owners of the services.
What was wanted, then, was an opportunity to test these ideas under New Zealand conditions. Such an opportunity would be provided if, somewhere or other, a completely new town were to be built, and if the authorities controlling the town building could be persuaded of the merits of co-operative enterprise and would agree to the control of the town's consumer economy by a system of consumers' co-operative services. (As we shall see later, Green-belt, in Maryland, U.S.A., is an example of a newly-created town whose economy rests completely on a consumers' co-operative basis.)

Onekaka, a Town To Be Built

In March 1938, shortly after I joined the N. Z. Co-operative Wholesale Society, the State Iron and Steel Bill was passed by Parliament. This Bill provided for the establishment of an iron and steel industry at Onekaka, 80 miles west of Nelson on the shores of Golden Bay. During the debate upon the measure it was explained that the proposed steel mill would employ 1500 workers, and that to house these workers an entirely new town would have to be planned and built in the locality, on a site which apart from one or two farming properties was so far unoccupied and uninhabited. But within a few years this proposed new town, it was stated, would grow to a population of about 10,000.
When I read these reports it immediately occurred to me that here was just the opportunity the co-operative movement wanted -
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the opportunity to develop a community economy in which all consumer services would be co-operatively owned. The conditions indeed seemed peculiarly favourable. As the town of Onekaka would be new in every respect, there would be nothing to tear down and no vested interests or holdings to displace. As the town was to be developed by a Labour Government, it seemed reasonable to suppose that such a Government would view with sympathetic eyes a co-oporative scheme of the type in question and, moreover, would provide the necessary finance. And as the population would consist mainly of the families of working men, of whom a proportion would be key tradesmen from Britain (the home of consumers' co-operation), it appeared likely that most of the residents of the future town would be sympathetically inclined to supporting a co-operative scheme for the supply of their own everyday household necessities.
I discussed this with colleagues in the co-operative movement, and in particular with Mr Iain Macleod, General Manager of the Cooperative Wholesale Society. They were all interested in the possibilities of a Co-operative Onekaka, a nd agreed that the movement should take some kind of a lead in the task of exploiting these possibilities. It was felt that an essential step would be to send one or more representatives of the movement to Onekaka itself, at an early date, to begin laying the foundations. But no definite arrangements or decisions were then made.

Failure of the Wholesale

Shortly after the passing of the Iron and Steel Bill the Wholesale Society ran into difficulties which resulted, in June 1938, in a winding up of its affairs. It is not relevant to this statement to go into the nature of those difficulties; I should state, however, that they were not duo to any unsoundness in the trading or business activities of the Wholesale.
As soon as it became clear that the days of the Wholesale wore numbered I proposed to Macleod that he and I should be the ones to go to Onekaka to undertake there the pioneering work necessary for creating a co-operative community. Macleod quickly agreed and we immediately made arrangements to take pick and shovel employment in the ore prospecting operations which were then under way
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on the site. In July 1938 we found ourselves in camp at Onekaka in company with several score workers cutting tracks and digging tunnels in search of iron ore.
Macleod and I at once began discussing with our fellow-workers the co-operative project we had in mind. As most of these workers would probably be future residents of the new town, it was important that their early support for the scheme be secured. We produced informative duplicated material (including a weekly paper, "The Call", issued under the auspices of the local Labour Party), held meetings and discussions, and in general did what we could to build up an attitude of informed approval for the idea of "Co-oper-ative Onekaka". Macleod remained in Onekaka for about a year, and I until April 1940 by which time prospecting operations had almost come to an end.

Meeting with Mr C. F. Skinner

Shortly after our arrival at Onekaka Macleod and I met Mr C. F. Ski mer, of Riwaka, the Labour candidate for the Motueka electorate. We lost no time in discussing our co-operative project with him, and he professed the greatest interest in it. He thought it feasible and fully in line with Labour policy and principle, and agreed to give it his backing.
With the collaboration of Mr Skinner and a group of local enthusiasts that we had gathered around us Macleod and I organized what we called a "Grand Co-operative Weekend" which was held in October of that year. The highlights of the "Weekend" were a public meeting to inaugurate the co-operative project, a dance to celebrate it, and visits to the various scenes of prospecting operations, arranged for the information of our guests. These guests, who arrived by invitation and spent the weekend with us, were Mr Ben Roberts, M. P., Mr Morgan Williams, M. P., Mr Clyde Carr, M. P., and of course Mr Skinner, M. P. These four Members of Parliament all gave the scheme their blessing and an undertaking to assist it in every way possible. In particular they promised to discuss it with their Parliamentary Labour colleagues with a view to securing official support.
It is interesting to note that of this group of Labour polit-
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icians who early declared their approval for a large-scale and comprehensive co-operative experiment at Onekaka, two (Mr Roberts and Mr Skinner) subsequently attained Cabinet rank, while a third (Mr Carr) became Chairman of Committees in the House of Representatives.
When Mr Skinner returned to Wellington after his stay with us at Onekaka he talked about the co-operative proposals with his colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party. In a letter to me he said that "I have discussed our intentions with most of our chaps and to a man they think it a wonderful opportunity and would be only rounding off th e scheme (the State Iron and Steel scheme).
By August 1939 the prospects for a practical co-operative development at Onekaka seemed very bright. That month the Minister in charge of the State Iron and Steel Department (Hon. D. G. Sullivan) announced from the floor of the House that prospecting results at Onekaka were sufficiently encouraging to warrant a definite decision to proceed with the steel production scheme, and that contracts were being let for the erection of the works. And on top of that, within a few days Mr Skinner informed us that Mr Sullivan had agreed to sot up a committee to go into the whole question of co-operative enterprise in the new town.
Next month, however, war broke out, and the Onekaka project was shelved for the duration (and is still shelved).
Soon after the beginning of the war Mr Skinner enlisted for overseas service. Before his departure he and I agreed that the Onekaka co-operative scheme must be kept alive, and that when the war ended we would again devote our energies to the task of giving it effect.

I Begin My Work in Wellington

For two and a half years after leaving Onekaka, with the exception of a short but active association with the Christchurch Co-operative Book Society, I had little contact with the consumers' co-operative movement. On coming to Wellington in August 1942,
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however, I was able to resume my interest in that movement in various practical ways. It was at this time, too, that I first became interested in the ideas of health centres and community centres.

Community Centres

In September I joined the staff of the Country Library Service, and found its book resources very useful in the development of my views on community planning. In particular, a book called "Community Centres", written for the Community Centres Joint Research Committee (England) by Flora and Gordon Stephenson, gave me my first real glimpse of the importance and scope of community centres in modern civilised communities. This book opened my eyes to the possibilities for better living afforded by the planned development of facilities for social, recreational and cultural services in what have come to be known as community centres.

Health Centres

I first encountered the "health centre" idea in a book entitled "A National Health Service", written by Mr Douglas Robb, the well-known Auckland surgeon, and his colleagues of the Auckland Medical Study Group. This book was published by the Progressive Publishing Society, Wellington, an organisation with which I was actively associated. The proposals of "A National Health Service" appealed to me greatly. The type of health centre described by the authors seemed to me to represent a very significant advance indeed upon present-day patterns of medical practice.
It is true to say that the Hutt Valley health centre and community centre schemes owe their origins to my reading these two books.

Mr Skinner Re-enters the Picture

Towards the end of 1943 Mr Skinner returned from overseas to become Minister of Rehabilitation in the Labour Government. On welcoming him home I suggested to him that we should lose no time in reviving consideration of the Onekaka co-operative project. Although it was certain that the building of the steel works and town would have to wait till after the war, nevertheless much
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useful work (I considered) could be done in the meantime in discussing the principles of co-operative planning of consumer services and their manner of application to the future Onekaka.
Mr Skinner agreed with this point of view. We decided that it would be useful to get together a group of progressively-minded persons whose purpose it would be to prepare a tentative co-operative plan for Onekaka for submission to the Government and other interested parties. Mr Skinner himself consented to act as Chairman.
Such a group (of which Dr. W. B. Sutch was an active member and myself secretary) was duly got together. We called it the Community Development Committee. At its first meeting I suggested that the Committee should not confine its planning activities to the economic field alone (on a consumers' co-operative basis) but should extend them to include other factors in community life such as health services, cultural and recreational services, etc.
I also suggested that the work of the Committee need not be restricted to the question of the development of one particular town alone - Onekaka - but should be made applicable, in principle, to any new town which might be built in the post-war period.
These suggestions were adopted. In a memorandum that I prepared for the Committee I wrote (in part):
"There is good reason to assume that after the war a number of completely new towns, based upon industrial activities, will spring up in New Zealand. This prospect presents a challenge to progressively-minded people. The question is, in what manner shall these towns evolve? Shall their development, as in the past, be entrusted in the main to self-seeking, uncoordinated, socially blind forces? Or shall they be deliberately and consciously planned, with the declared objective of creating a new type of human community in which the fullest opportunity will be given to all citizens to live healthy, useful, happy lives?
The possibilities of such community planning are surely imagination-stirring.... An undertaking of this nature, moreover, is intimately linked with the universal demand today for a New Social Order, for a bold and radical forward step in the evolution of human relations. For it is clear that new modes of living together must be reflected in new and more advanced types of community institutions, and that the small town of tomorrow will have its own essential contributions to make to the solution of the problems of today.
This challenge of modern community development, within the context which the post-war New Zealand scene will provide, has been accepted. At a meeting held in Wellington on 15th December 1943, in the offices of Major C. F. Skinner, M. C.,
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Minister of Rehabilitation, a group of citizens formed themselves into a committee which they named the Community Development Committee. Major Skinner was elected Chairman. The Committee is a nucleus around which, it is hoped, will gradually develop an organisation for the consideration of every problem relevant to the planning of a new type of New Zealand town.
The Committee agreed upon the following Terms of Reference:
(a)
To prepare draft plans - broadly based (where appropriate and possible) upon the principles, methods, and general social outlook of the Rochdale consumers' cooperative movement - for all aspects of the economic and communal life of certain new towns in New Zealand the building of which, there is reason to believe, may be undertaken in the near future.
(b)
To submit such plans for criticism to interested persons and groups, in New Zealand and abroad, willing and equipped to offer useful advice.
(c)
To amend the draft plans in the light of all criticism received, and to submit them in their amended form to the New Zealand Government and other interested bodies for consideration and action.
(d)
To co-operate with other organisations with similar or allied objectives.
After a section on the principles of Rochdale consumers' Cooperation the memorandum went on to say:
"Co-operation in Other Community Spheres
"The essential outlook of Co-operation can be applied to many other spheres besides the purely economic. 'The principle of Co-operation', it has been said, 'can be applied to love, football, politics, almost anything except solitaire. The co-operative movement takes the principle, refines it with a set of rules, and applies it to people as buyers and sellers. ' The Community Development Committee insists that the principle can be applied to people as citizens, in every social relationship.
This principle of Co-operation has two essential ingredients:
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Conscious collective planning, with the ideal of social welfare as inspiration and goal, of community institutions and services;
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Direct democratic control, by the men and women who will be affected, of the institutions and services so planned.
The memorandum concluded with a tentative list of "the major fields of human relationships (in towns) which call for the application of the co-operative principle (in planning)." These included:
"(a)
The physical planning of the town; (the layout of the streets, open spaces, and so on).
(b)
The economic services; (shops, taxis, theatres, etc.)
(c)
The health services; (medical, dental, hospital, Plunket, etc.)
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(d)
The community centre; (library, lecture hall, study circles, etc.)
(e)
Physical recreation; (sports grounds, gymnasia, creches, kindergartens, nurseries, etc.)"
This Community Development Committee had a short life. From the start it was clear, and explicitly admitted, that the group would be unable to function realistically and effectively without some degree of recognised Governmental sympathy with its aims and without authorised assistance from various State Departments. The fact that Mr Skinner had agreed to act as Chairman encouraged the group to think that this recognition and assistance ould be forthcoming. It soon became evident however that the Minister was not prepared to take any of the steps necessary to put the group on a proper working basis. Indeed, he soon let it be known that he thought his Chairmanship embarrassing and that he could not retain It. Thus the group faded away.
The effort put into its organisation by myself was not wasted, however. As the reader will appreciate from the account in the next chapter, this original Community Development Committee was the precursor and rough model of the Hutt Valley Community Planning Council, which had a much more active life and which was responsible for the entire planning programme the story of which is the main theme of this statement.
In the year 1944 I engaged my energies in two directions: first, towards arranging a series of public lectures and discussions on various aspects of community planning, and second, towards the preparation and publication of a book, in symposium form, on community and health centres.

Public Lectures and Discussions

In association with Dr Sutch I proposed to Mr Skinner that Sutch and I should organise, and the Minister should chair, a number of public meetings to be addressed by well-known authorities on town planning, health centres, and community centres. Our purpose was to arouse public interest in and support for the
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idea of the rational planning of new towns in New Zealand, in order to make it easier for the Government to give its approval and backing to such planning activities. We also had it in mind to build up Mr Ski mer in the eyes of the public as an advocate of a progressive approach to the problems of planning these new towns. For my part, I had by no means given up hope that, despite the disappointing outcome of his association with the short-lived Community Development Committee, the Minister might yet fill a useful role in Ministerial and Governmental circles as an advocate of community planning.
Mr Skinner agreed to chair the proposed meetings. Two of these were arranged. The first was addressed by Mr J. W. Mawson, Town planning Officer of the Department of Internal Affairs, and was held in the Social Room of the Parliament Buildings in February, 1944. Several hundred citizens had been invited, and the hall was filled by an audience numbering hundreds. Mr Mawson spoke on the general problems of the planning of new towns.
The second meeting, again chaired by Mr Skinner, was held in the Concert Chamber of the Wellington Town Hall in the following May. The speakers were Lieut. -Col. D. G. Ball, Director of the Army Education Welfare Service, on "What is a community centre?" and Mr H. C. D. Somerset, Director of the Fcilding Community Centre, on "What we can learn from the Feilding experiment." This meeting was also well attended, and produced an interesting discussion.
Such and I made efforts to arrange a meeting to be addressed by Mr Douglas Robb on "Health Centres", but for a number of reasons nothing came of them.

The Community Centre Symposium

Dr Sutch and I were also closely associated in a proposal to produce a book, in symposium form, on community centres. Sutch was one of the Directors of the Progressive Publishing Society and I, as editor of the Society's monthly paper "Co-op Books", acted informally as a member of the Directorate. We proposed that the Society should undertake publication. The original idea for the book was mine.
We had no difficulty in interesting a number of people with
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specialised knowledge in the proposal. Col. Ball (already mentioned) was one, Mr P. A. Smithells, Superintendent of Physical Education in the Physical Education Branch of the Education Department, was another. We four formed a Wellington Committee to plan the book and arrange for contributions from a panel of authoritative writers.
Mr Somerset, of Feilding, as the foremost authority on community centres in New Zealand, was of course the first person whom we invited to join us in the development of the project. Mr Somerset gladly agreed to write a chapter. Mr Douglas Robb, of Auckland, also promised (and wrote) a chapter on "Health and the Centre".
The scope of our ideas will be illustrated by the following "draft general plan" prepared by Mr Smithells:
Frontispiece - Sketch, perspective and plan E. A. Plishke
Experience at Feilding H. C. D. Somerset
Organisation, control and finance (to be decided)
Adult education and the centre D. G. Ball
Culture and the centre E. A. Plishke
Recreation and the centre P. A. Smithells
Health and the centre Douglas Robb
Women and the centre Gwen L. Somerset
Democracy and the centre W. B. Sutch
Personnel, selection and training P. A. Smithells
Designs for centres E. A. Plishke
Summary and conclusions The Editors
Possibly also 'Youth and the centre' (Smithells), 'The School and the centre' (Sutch), and 'The Public Library and the centre' (Robertson).
An introductory chapter was actually written by Mr Smithells and, as I have said, a chapter on "Health and the Centre" by Mr Robb in which the close relationship between health centres and community centres was clearly revealed.
For various reasons it was rot found practicable to proceed with this publishing project. These notes, however, and my references to the public meetings, will help to show how my mind was running in those days and how I was building up a background for my later
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activities in promoting a specific community planning scheme for the new State Housing settlements of Lower Hutt.

The Hutt Valley Consumers' Co-operative Development - Beginnings

It is time now for me to resume my "consumers' co-operative" theme.
Since the folding of the N. Z. Co-operative Wholesale Society in June, 1938, there had been no central organisation in the consumers' co-operative movement responsible on a national scale for publicity, education, development, and so on. Early in 1945 the Manawatu Consumers' Co-operative Society, of Palmerston North, proposed to the individual co-operative societies then in existence throughout the Dominion that the time had come for reconstituting some form of national organisation. A conference to discuss the proposal was convened in Palmerston North on 20th and 21st January. The Hon. Ben Roberts, Minister of Marketing, as an old-time co-operator represented the New Zealand Government and (in the words of the Conference Report) "gave the opening address, in which he stressed the fact that co-operative principles and methods must play a leading part in a worthwhile post-war world."
Out of the discussions emerged a decision to set up what was called the Co-operative Information Service. One of the functions of this Service was to provide advice and assistance in the establishment of new consumers' co-operative societies.
I quote the following from the Conference Report:
"New Communities and Consumers' Co-operation
Early in the proceedings Mr Robertson discussed the possibilities of large-scale co-operative development in the various new communities which are now being planned by the Government. He referred to the new housing estates in Auckland and the Hutt Valley, and to the industrial schemes associated with the sites of Reporoa and Onekaka. He suggested that an essential task of a national co-operative organisation should be to press upon the Government the desirability of giving favourable consideration to plans for comprehensive co-operative activity in such new communities.
Mr Sid Morris (Runanga Co-operative Society and Brunner Co-operative Society) moved:
That this Conference urge the Government that when new communities are being created, due to the housing policy, prior facilities be given to the establishment of co-operatives in the shopping areas.
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This resolution was carried unanimously, and the Information Service was instructed to discuss its implications with the Government."
A few months later, in May, a report in the Wellington Evening Post of the progress which was being made with the State Housing settlement at Naenae, Lower Hutt, convinced me that the time was ripe for initiating a community planning project within that new community, and that the first step should be to promote a consumers' co-operative society.
Naenae, I learned, although it would be part of the municipality of Lower Hutt, would have many of the features of an independent community. A large area of land had been taken over by the Housing Construction Department and a modern housing estate planned. It was proposed to build about 2,500 houses which would accommodate about 10,000 people (the estimated population of the projected town of Onekaka). Areas had been set aside for shopping centres and playing fields, and a central site of twelve acres (what I later call a "neighbourhood centre") was designed to accommodate the main shops as well as various public buildings, a theatre, and other community amenities.
So far, although several hundred houses were in course of erection in Naenae, only about 200 were completed and occupied. And apart from housing, no buildings of any kind had been begun. Thus the time and opportunity seemed favourable to attempt to secure the support of both the early residents and of the Government in a bold and imaginative scheme for developing the consumer services of this new community on a thorough-going consumers' co-operative basis.
My first act was to discuss the matter with Mr Skinner. He was much impressed with the possibilities and agreed to lend his aid. I suggested to him that we should enlist the backing of the Co-operative Information Service, as that organisation represented the consumers' co-operative movement and (as we have already seen) was interested in the development of co-operation in new housing settlements.
The Directors of the Manawatu Consumers' Co-operative Society had accepted temporary responsibility for the administration of
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the Co-operative Information Service. Accordingly Mr Skinner and I took the first opportunity of discussing the Naenae prospects with Mr G. A. Brown, Managing Secretary of that Society and with his Board of Directors. They were all favourably impressed, and agreed to make available the services of Mr M. Entwistle, the Manawatu Society's field organiser, to undertake a canvass of opinion amongst those already in residence in Naenae.

The Co-operative Petition

Mr Entwistle arrived in Naenae towards the end of June, and early in July had completed his canvass. During his stay he visited practically every occupied house, explained to the occupants the principles and practices of consumers' co-operation, and secured the signatures of 91% of the householders to the following petition to the New Zealand Government:
We, the undersigned residents of Naenae, would like to establish in this community a Consumers' Co-operative Society to own and control the grocery, bakery, butchery, and other retail services; hotels, restaurants, tea-rooms, and boarding houses; garages and garage services; coal, wood, and milk supply; and all other consumer services.
We request the Government to give us whatever assistance is necessary to achieve this purpose.
And we undertake to give such a Consumers' Co-operative Society our continuing support, both by subscribing share capital and by our custom.
Upon the completion of the petition I presented it to Mr Skinner, who undertook to discuss it with his colleagues. He did so, but had to report back that as the Government were very sensitive to returned servicemen's opinion they felt that it would be essential to secure the explicit support of the local returned servicemen, as a body, for the proposals before Governmental approval could be given them.
In the meantime a "pro tem" co-operative committee had been formed in Naenae by a group of residents who, during Mr Entwistle's survey, had shown themselves specially interested in the co-operative scheme. To this committee I reported the Government's views regarding ex-servicemen. They immediately decided to organise another petition, in the same terms but this time to be addressed exclusively to the servicemen and servicewomen of the community.
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The result of this additional survey of opinion was substantially the same as that of the original one, 90% support for the petition being given.
The "Services" petition was forwarded to the Government, through Mr Skinner, by the "pro tem" Committee. At the same time they requested an interview with the Prime Minister (Mr Fraser), the Minister of Finance and Member of Parliament for Hutt (Mr Nash), and the Minister of Rehabilitation (Mr Skinner), for the purpose of discussing the full implications of the Naenae co-operative scheme. A meeting between these three Ministers and the "pro tem" Committee (with myself present as representative of the Co-operative Information Service) was duly held in the Prime Minister's office.

Meeting with the Prime Minister

At this meeting Mr Fraser expressed himself as being very interested in the Naenae consumers' co-operative proposals and promised his support for them. In particular he said that the Government would be prepared to grant the occupancy on rental terms to a properly constituted Naenae Consumers' Co-operative Society of a block of shops which the Housing Construction Department planned to erect shortly in Naenae. With regard to the long-range plans of the co-operative organisers, as foreshadowed in the wording of the petitions, Mr Fraser said that he would be glad to examine them fully later on, after the Naenae Society had established itself.
On the strength of these undertakings by the Government the Naenae Consumers' Co-operative Society, at a public meeting in Naenae a little while later, came into being. Thus began the development of consumers' co-operation in the Hutt Valley.

My Transfer to the Internal Marketing Division

It will be evident that the co-operative scheme which was being proposed was no ordinary one. Indeed, the contemplated complete inclusion of all consumer services within one co-operative system was something which had never even been suggested before in New Zealand (apart from the Onekaka proposals), much less seriously thought of as a practical possibility and given at least lip-endorsement by an apparently sympathetic Government. From the very beginnings of my discussions with Mr Skinner we had agreed that the
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magnitude of the scheme was such that no local, voluntary committee of citizens working in their leisure hours could hope to tackle it successfully. The scale and tempo of the proposed development demanded that the efforts of local volunteers should be supplemented by some type of full-time, professional assistance.
Whence could such assistance be obtained? It seemed obvious to me, and Mr Skinner readily agreed, that the Labour Government itself could reasonably be asked to supply it. The contemplated development was fully in line with Labour beliefs and policy - Labour politicians on innumerable occasions had expressed their acceptance of the co-operative outlook. And here was a chance to put certain basic Labour principles into practice.
Mr Skinner also agreed that the full-time, professional assistance necessary could most suitably be supplied by myself, as the originator and principal architect of the scheme and as one with a sympathetic understanding of its needs, implications and problems. But to render my services available in this way I would need to be transferred from the Country Library Service (where I was then employed) to some other part of the Government service where my new duties could be fitted into normal Departmental function. We felt that the then existent Organisation for National Development could provide a suitable opening. Mr Skinner offered to use his influence in getting the necessary arrangements made.
Accordingly, at the conclusion of the meeting with the Prime Minister, mentioned above, Mr Skinner proposed to Mr Fraser that I be transferred to the Organisation for National Development and that I be authorised to devote my full time to the Naenae co-operative project. Mr Fraser accepted the proposal in principle, but thought that I would be better placed with the Internal Marketing Division for the purpose contemplated. He requested Mr Skinner to confer with the Director of Marketing, Mr R. P. Fraser, to obtain his views on the subject. If the latter were willing to accept me on his staff to act as a full-time promoter for the Naenae cooperative project, then he (the Prime Minister) would give the necessary authority.
Mr Skinner duly interviewed Mr R. P. Fraser who, after taking
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time to consider the matter, agreed to the move. Thus in November 1945 I found myself on the staff of the Internal Marketing Division, with what amounted to "carte blanche" freedom to collaborate with the local organisers of the consumers' co-operative movement in Naenae in prosecuting their plans for a large-scale, comprehensive co-operative development of consumer services for their rapidly growing community.

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