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Lower Hutt Community Centres: Final Statement (1950)

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Chapter 3
The Consumers' Co-operative Scheme

An account is given of the Greenbelt Co-operative, an American experiment which could have been regarded as a model and precedent by the New Zealand Labour Government; the planning by the Consumers' Co-operative Committee of a comprehensive system of consumer services for the Epuni, Naenae, Taita area; reasons for thinking that the Labour Government would have been prepared to make available the essential finance; disillusionment; conclusions.
The Consumers' Co-operative Committee included representatives of the Consumers' Co-operative Societies of Naenae, Epuni, and Taita. (I have already described how the Naenae Society came into being. Similar organisations were launched in Epuni (June 1945) and in Taita (April 1946). In October 1946 these three organisations amalgamated to form the present Hutt Valley Consumers' Co-operative Society.)
Mr J. S. Berry, President of the Naenae Society, was elected Chairman and myself Secretary.
Before telling the story of the Consumers' Co-operative Committee I must provide certain background material.

Greenbelt Co-operative

During my stay at Onekaka I came across (and printed in "The Call" of 6th February 1939) an account of an American experiment in consumers' co-operation which seemed to bear a close resemblance to that which Macleod and I were proposing for the future steel town at Golden Bay. The scene of this American experiment was Greenbelt, in Maryland, near the capital city of 'Washington. I learned that Greenbelt was an entirely new town which had been planned and built as a New Deal project during the later thirties to provide attractive accommodation and environment for almost 1000 modest income families. This new town was arousing worldwide interest as an outstanding example of bold and progressive town planning. For my purposes however I was chiefly interested in the fact that the whole of Greenbelt's shopping and other consumer services had, with the approval and positive assistance of the American Federal Government, been planned and developed as a
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system of consumer co-operatives.
On coming to Wellington I sought further information on Greenbelt. I suggested to Mr Skinner that he ask for an up-to-date report from the New Zealand Legation in Washington. Mr Skinner did so, and in July 1945 received a memorandum on the Greenbelt Co-operatives prepared by the Legation's First Secretary, who had made a special visit to Greenbelt for the purpose.
From this and other sources the following facts emerged. Greenbelt was a small town in the planning of which modern town-planning principles had been applied with conspicuous success. The development had been undertaken by the Federal Government primarily as a work relief project, but was later extended in order to help relieve the war-time housing shortage in neighbouring Washington. In 1945 the population was about 7500.
When the scheme, early in the thirties, was still on paper an organisation known as the Consumer Distribution Corporation became interested in the possibilities of establishing the consumer services of the future town on a thoroughgoing consumers' co-operative basis. (This Consumer Distribution Corporation was a $1,000,000 foundation which had been set up and financed by the late Edward A. Filene, a millionaire Boston department-store owner and co-operative sympathiser, for the purpose of assisting approved co-operative undertakings.) Its Directors prepared a detailed proposal which they submitted to the Federal Government agency responsible for the Greenbelt housing project.
In essence, the proposal provided that the Federal Government should erect and furnish whatever buildings were necessary to accommodate the various consumer services - shops, cinemas, garages, and so on - which the future residents of Greenbelt would need, and then lease them to the Corporation. The Corporation, for its part, would not only provide the working capital for these services but would staff and manage them for a period of years. During these years the local residents would be encouraged to form themselves into a consumers' co-operative society and to interest themselves in the problems of business management, so that they
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would acquire sufficient knowledge and experience eventually to take over control from the Consumer Distribution Corporation. It was part of the plan that the whole of the capital supplied by the Corporation would be repaid by the proposed Greenbelt Consumers' Co-operative Society from share capital subscribed by its members and from profits of the co-operative trading concerns.
The Federal Government agreed to this proposal and it was duly carried out. By 1945 the following services (according to the report of the N. Z. Legation already referred to) had been established; "A food store, which in America means groceries, meat, vegetables, fish, as well as normal products found in the average foodstore in New Zealand; a miscellaneous variety store (something of the typo of Woolworth's and McKenzie's) the range of the goods not being limited to low priced priced articles. . .; a picture theatre; a beauty salon; a barber's shop; a dry cleaning establishment; a lending library; a drug store (in the American sense); a swimming pool."
As required by the scheme a consumers' co-operative society was formed, most of the residents joining, and its committee sat in regularly at meetings with the business personnel supplied by the Corporation, to get an insight into the problems of management. At the same time this committee took a lead in the important task of educating the rest of the community in the principles and methods of consumers' co-operation.
I take the following from the report supplied by the New Zealand Legation;
"The co-operative enterprises were started through the initiative of a Boston foundation (Consumer Distribution Corporation) which provided the first working capital and managed the enterprise until the local community became sufficiently organised to take over. At this stage the whole of the management was handed over to the local community and within a short time the whole of the working capital was repaid. From the experience at Greenbelt it is emphasised that some sort of skilled guidance and management by an organisation with no ulterior objectives is essential for the proper establishment of co-operative enterprises in a community that has had no adequate experience. The greatest danger facing such enterprises, from the experience in this country (United States), would appear to be poor selection of staff, inadequate salaries to attract suitable men, poor judgment in purchasing stock, and short-sighted financial policy.
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Having had this substantial beginning, Greenbelt Co-operatives have developed on sound lines with constant success. Residents are entitled to purchase $10 shares with a maximum $500 investment and on these they receive 5 per cent. interest.
Each shareholder is entitled to one vote irrespective of the size of his holding and at the end of the year is entitled to a share in the distribution of profits on the basis of patronage of the Co-operative's enterprises. . .
The co-operative organisation appoints a general manager, and a manager for each of the individual stores or services. The method of payment of the various managers varies, some being on straight salary and some on salary plus commission. The prices of goods and services appear to be competitive with those in Washington. . .
The business of all the enterprises has increased very considerably in recent years and could be extended immediately if buildings, stocks and labour were available (1945). . .
The apparent monopoly of the co-operative enterprises follows from their agreement with the Federal Government that they will have the first right to take the lease of any other building erected for commercial purposes."
From these extracts from the Legation's report it will be clear that the objective that I had been aiming at in Onekaka, and that I was now aiming at in Naenae and the adjacent State Housing settlements of Lower Hutt, had already been achieved in a newly-built American town, and that the American experiment was a success. I found this encouraging, as it seemed to me that if an American Government could permit itself to encourage and materially assist such a project, then a Labour Government in New Zealand, whose members had so often professed their support for consumers' co-operation, should have no hesitation in following the lead.
It is true that the Federal American Government supplied the capital merely for the buildings and their furnishings, the Consumer Distribution Corporation finding the working capital needed. In New Zealand, as there was nothing corresponding to that Corporation, and as it would be clearly futile to seek capital for cooperative undertakings of the type envisaged for the Hutt Valley from private capitalist sources, the success of such a project would necessarily depend upon the whole of the capital required (less what could reasonably be sought from the local residents) being made available by the State.
However, there seemed to be no discernible difference in principle between a Government supplying capital for buildings and
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furnishings for such a purpose, and a Government supplying capital for buildings and furnishings and working capital as well. No money would be given away, everything would be on a proper business basis. In Greenbelt the co-operative society pays a fair rent to the State for its buildings and their furnishings, and has now repaid the whole of the working capital advanced by the Corporation. And there was no reason to believe that a similar co-operative undertaking in the Hutt Valley would do less.
The example of the Greenbelt Co-operative seemed so instructive that I prepared a statement illustrated with photographs upon it, based upon the current information in my possession, and placed several copies in Mr Skinner's hands with the suggestion that he make them available to his colleagues.

Mr Nash and the Question of Finance

The first discussion with Mr Nash on the question of finance for Hutt Valley co-operatives took place in October 1945, when Mr H. R. Larkin, President of the newly-formed Epuni Consumers' Co-operative Society, and I had an interview with the Minister. Mr Nash was by then aware, from the terms of the Naenae co-operative petitions, of the proposed scope and nature of co-operative development in the Hutt Valley. In our interview Mr Larkin and I emphasised that it would be quite impossible for the local communities to raise initially all, or even a major part, of the considerable capital required for such large-scale projects. Most of it would have to be raised by loan, as in the case of any big business undertaking tackled by private enterprise. We suggested that a Labour Government could legitimately be called upon for the necessary financial assistance.
Mr Nash readily accepted this point of view. He thought that the money required could be made available by the Government, of course on usual loan terms. The Minister, indeed, went so far as to say that he thought the whole question of Government support for consumers' Co-operation was one of high principle. With certain other questions, he said, the possible effect of Governmental action upon the ballot box had to be given decisive weight, but in the
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case of consumers' co-operation (and in particular the important Hutt Valley scheme) his Government would be justified in taking a bold stand on those high principles even to the extent of taking some risk at the polls.
That is what Mr Nash said on that occasion. At the interview there were only the Minister, Mr Larkin, and I present, and no official notes were kept. But several times since, in conversation, Mr Larkin has confirmed the accuracy of the report I have just given, above.

The Work of the Consumers' Co-operative Committee

I am now ready to discuss the work of the Consumers' Co-operative Committee. At the outset of our deliberations we had the following reasons for believing that the Labour Government would make available (on business terms) the bulk of the capital required for the comprehensive scheme that we were about to formulate.
1.
A similar development with similar financial requirements, which had been planned for Onekaka had already (according to Mr Skinner) been promised support by most members of the Parliamentary Labour Party and specifically by Hon. C. F. Skinner, Hon. Ben Roberts, Mr Clyde Carr, M. P., and Mr Morgan Williams, M. P.
2.
Hon. C. F. Skinner, Minister of Rehabilitation, as Patron of the Hutt Valley Community Planning Council was not only fully aware of the financial implications of the co-operative proposals but could, we felt, be relied upon to represent them adequately to his Cabinet and Governmental colleagues.
3.
Every member of the Government had been kept supplied with full information concerning the nature and scope of the proposed co-operative scheme and could scarcely have avoided realising that its successful implementing would require State financing.
4.
The Government had before it (in the case of the Greenbelt Co-operative) a precedent for State financial assistance to an experimental consumers' co-operative enterprise; a precedent, moreover, supplied not by a "leftist" Government but by the Federal Government of the United States.
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5.
Mr Nash had already assured Mr Larkin andmyself (see above) that his Government would view with sympathetic helpfulness the financial needs of the co-operative project which was being envisaged for the Hutt Valley State Housing settlements.
6.
At the meeting (already referred to - see page 22) on 26th March 1946 in Mr Nash's office between Mr Nash, Mr Parry, Mr Nordmeyer, and Mr Combs and representatives of the areas of Epuni, Naenae, and Taita it was emphasised by the "consumers co-operation" spokesmen that State finance on a sufficient scale would be essential to make possible the proposed Hutt Valley co-operative development. Although Mr Nash was not asked or expected to make any commitment at the time, nevertheless the Epuni, Naenae, and Taita representatives carried away the impression that such need for State finance was recognised and admitted both by Mr Nash and by the other Ministers present.

The Committee's Plan

Encouraged by their belief (based upon the grounds enumerated above) that their efforts would have some tangible result, the Con sumers' Co-operative Committee proceeded to draft an outline plan for consumer services for the new Lower Hutt State Housing settlements. This plan was printed in full in the July 1946 issue of the "Hutt Valley Co-operator" (produced by the Hutt Valley Consumers' Co-operative Society) and was distributed not only to all local residents but to all Members of Parliament as well. It provided for modern department stores (in the "neighbourhood centres" of Epuni, Naenae, and Taita) for the sale of food, clothing, and other household goods; a cinema for each locality; restaurants, milkbars, and taverns; a bakery, a meat processing factory, a garage, etc.; board and lodging services for transients and permanents; and local food stores at the various "shopping points" allowed for in the town-plan of the area. This report ran to about 2000 words, and furnished a framework for the development of a modern, efficient, and economical system of consumer services.
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Plan Adopted by the Hutt Valley Consumers' Co-operative Society

These recommendations of the Community Centre Committee were adopted by the Hutt Valley Consumers' Co-operative Society as a pattern for the expansion of co-operative trading activities in the State Housing settlements. On 3rd December 1946 the Society wrote to Hon. C. F. Skinner, Patron of the Hutt Valley Community Planning Council, asking for a formal decision by the Government regarding assistance for its plans. The letter read, in part:
"At the present moment the Society controls four retail shops and a bread delivery service. Next Monday (9th December) two more shops will begin trading. By March 1947 the Society's operations will include 13 shops, and by the beginning of 1948 21 shops and a bakery.
In addition, the Society has already approved a scheme of further development which includes the following:
(a)
A complete chain of food stores (grocery with household hardware, greengrocery, butchery, and milkbar-dairy),
(b)
Three department stores,
(c)
Productive and servicing establishments including a bakery, meat processing factory, garage, shoe repair factory, coal and wood yard, etc.
(d)
A catering system comprising restaurants, tea-rooms, milk-bars, taverns, and an hotel-hostel.
(See Report of the Consumers' Co-operative Committee, Hutt Valley Community Planning Council, published in the July 1946 issue of the "Hutt Valley Co-operator")
To cope with this proposed development the Society must secure in the very near future the services of a fully qualified General Manager. It has been decided to advertise this position, offering a commencing salary of £1,250 and outlining the Society's proposed future operations in terms of (a) to (d) above. It is essential that the advertisement appear without delay.
It is obvious, however, that the Society cannot advertise in these terms until it is assured of Governmental backing for Its plans. We formally invite the Government, therefore, to examine our proposals, to endorse them, and to agree to render us whatever assistance is necessary to execute them. In this context may we refer you to the original petitions signed by the residents of Naenae in the months of June to September, 1945."

Government's Reply

On 18th December a reply was received from Mr Skinner, which began: "You will be pleased to learn that Cabinet has given carefull and favourable consideration to the submissions made in your letter of the 3rd December." The Minister went on to say that the Government had agreed, under certain specified conditions,
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(a)
"to facilitate the erection of buildings to permit the extension and development of co-operative trading and to make these buildings available on agreed terms to co-operative societies", and
(b)
"to placing the whole of the commercial services and trading businesses under the exclusive control of the particular co-oper ative society."
The letter concluded with these two paragraphs:
"In particular, without making any financial commitments, the Government welcomes the proposals of co-operative trading. . . as set out in the Society's letter addressed to me on the 3rd December, 1946, and will do all it can to assist the Society to achieve its objective.
I am sure the foregoing advice will be welcome news to the Society and the co-operative movement generally, and it gives me very real pleasure to inform you of the Government's decision, "
The Hutt Valley Society was naturally very pleased indeed to receive this statement from the Government. It was true that, in welcoming the proposals for the extension of co-operative trading, the Government did so "without making any financial commitments" Nevertheless, from the tone and context of the letter it was inferred that when the time arrived the Government would make available working capital and capital for equipment as well as provide the necessary biildings. Indeed, if this inference were not meant to be drawn then Mr Skinner's letter made simple nonsense. It cannot be imagined that the Minister and his colleagues (in particular Mr Nash) failed to realise that to offer the use of buildings for the development of a trading scheme such as the Hutt Valley Society had in mind without at the same time being prepared to make resources available to equip and stock those buildings was equivalent to offering nothing at all. It would be as the poet said:
"O mother, may I go out to swim?"
"Why yes, my darling daughter.'
Just hang your clothes on a hickory limb -
But don't go near the water.'"
On the strength of Mr Skinner's letter the Hutt Valley Society made arrangements to advertise for a General Manager at a salary
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of £1, 250 per annum.

Further Apparent Grounds for Confidence

In taking this step the confidence of the Directors of the Society that the anticipated State financial aid would be duly forthcoming was further reinfoced by Mr Nish's approval of the above salary figure and of the specific terms of the advertisement for General Manager. The Directors had in fact discussed these points in detail with Mr Nash, during a meeting with him in his office. The Minister carefully examined the draft advertisement (which, as already stated, set forth the nature and wide scope of the Society's proposals for business expansion), suggested one or two amendments, and endorsed a final draft. He also agreed that to secure a General Manager competent to organise and control such a comprehensive system of consumer services no lesser salary than the figure named - £1,250 - should be offered.
Naturally enough, it never occurred to anyone at the time that the Minister could fail to realise the financial implications of this advertisement, or that he could allow himself to approve its terms without some kind of understanding in his own mind as to how these implications were to be met.
So the Directors proceeded with their plans, believing them to be soundly based in Governmental goodwill and willingness to co-operate. But just how unsoundly based they in fact were, we shall now see.

The co-operative Bakery

A bakery, it will be recalled, was one of the items included in the overall plans of the Consumers' Co-operative Committee. Early representations were made to the Government seeking approval for the establishment of a co-operative bakery and for the necessary financial and building assistance. The result was verbal advice from Mr Skinner that Cabinet had decided to authorise such a bakery in the Naenae light industrial area, the building to be planned and erected by the Housing Construction Department.
With this decision in hand and on behalf both of the Co-operative Society and of the Housing Department I made extensive enquiries
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into the question of bakery design and equipment. In this I had the invaluable assistance of the New Zealand representative of Baker Perkins Ltd., (probably the world's foremost manufacturers of baking equipment). After a number of conferences between the Baker Perkins representative and myself and the architects of the Housing Department, a design was produced for a modern bakery which in its class would have been superior to any other in New Zealand. Being fully mechanised, expensive and uncertain hand labour would have been cut to a minimum, and the plant's operation would have been highly efficient and economical.
The total cost of bread and cake making equipment called for in the design was approximately £20,000. The analysis of costs, probable turnover, and profits showed that this capital outlay of £20,000 could have been repaid in 10 years. A copy of this analysis was supplied to Mr Nash.
Towards the middle of 1947 the Housing Construction Department was ready to embark upon the working drawings for the co-operative bakery, and wanted additional authority to do so. The Co-operative Society, also, wanted at this stage an explicit understanding with the Government (i.e., with Mr Nash) regarding finance for equipment for which it was necessary to place an order. Consequently the question of the bakery was raised at a meeting between Mr Nash, Mr Skinner, and the Directors of the Society.
Now at last - a year and a half after the presentation to the Government of the Naenae co-operative petitions - Mr Nash for the first time saw fit clearly to reveal his mind on the question of assistance to the Hutt Valley consumers' co-operative scheme. When invited to arrange finance capital for the £20,000 worth of equipment required for the bakery, he said: "But the Government never had any intention of providing capital for such purposes; we have undertaken to erect whatever buildings are needed and to lease them to the Co-operative Society, but the Society itself will have to find the money for equipment, stock, and so on."
Mr Skinner then said, speaking to Mr Nash, "But the understanding surely has always been that the Government would finance the
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co-operative scheme in the Hutt Valley? That certainly has always been my understanding." (I shall not forget the disconcerted tone in Mr Skinner's voice as he said that.)
"Oh no", replied Mr Hash, "that is quite out of the question." And went on to refer to elections and votes.
With those few words Mr Nash killed the Hutt Valley consumers' co-operative scheme. What is left of that scheme, now, is merely a number of corner shops, with no significance in the life of the community or as a planned experiment in rationalised and democratically controlled consumer services.

Mr Nash the Principal Culprit

In this "consumers' co-operative" story two Ministers have played leading roles - Mr Skinner and Mr Nash. Mr Skinner, I still believe, was genuine in his support for the Hutt Valley co-operative scheme and, until his final disillusionment at the hands of Mr Nash, really thought that his Government would be prepared to finance that scheme. However, over the months and years he fell down badly on the job by failing to get to grips with his colleagues on this crucial question of finance. He let things drift, and must share the blame for the situation that developed - a situation in which the Hutt Valley co-operators were happily planning for their community a model system of consumer services to be made possible by State finance when all the time the Government (or rather Mr Nash) had no intention at all of providing that finance.
But Mr Nash is the main culprit. He was the one who, as Minister of Finance and a powerful member of the Government, would have the decisive say on the question of State finance for the Hutt Valley Co-operative. And as Member of Parliament for Hutt he had a special responsibility to see to it that the Hutt Valley co-operators - who were his constituents - were under no illusions regarding such State finance. My quarrel with this Minister is not so much that he finally refused to make this finance available, but that he permitted the co-operative planners - over a period of 18 months - to believe that it would in fact be provided.
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What In All Honesty He Should Have Done

Over those 18 months there were a number of occasions when Mr Nash was" directly confronted with the proposals for comprehensive co-operative development in the Hutt Valley. Assuming that what he said during the discussion on the proposed co-operative bakery was true, namely that "the Government never had any intention of providing capital" for equipments, stock, etc., what should have been his attitude on those occasions? Let us make some suggestions.
First occasion, October 1945. Presentation to the Government of the co-operative petitions. (see page 16)
These petitions were quite explicit in outlining the scope and extent of the proposals for co-operative development. These proposals were (as we have already seen) submitted to Mr Fraser, Mr Nash, and Mr Skinner in the Prime Minister's rooms by the Naenae 'pro tem' Committee in October 1945. What should Mr Nash, as Minister of Finance, Member of Parliament for Hutt, and an alleged friend of the co-operative movement, have said to the deputation?
Mr Nash: "You have a very ambitious scheme here, but it is as well to be realistic. It is going to cost many thousand pounds to do all this. Where do you propose to get the money from?"
Co-Operators: "We will be able to get a certain amount of capital from local residents as members of a co-operative society, but we realise that that amount will be strictly limited and will not nearly cover the total requirements. Most of the capital needed we hope will be provided by the Government, of course on usual business terms as regards interest and repayment."
Mr Nash: "Quite out of the question.' Think of the political uproar there would be if this Government supplied finance to a co-operative society.' The most that we can do will be to have the Housing Department erect buildings for shops and perhaps certain other purposes and then let them on usual rental terms to your co-operative society. You will have to find your own capital for your equipment, stock, and so on."
Co-Operators: "Well, that is very disappointing, as we did think a Labour Government would be prepared to help a venture such as
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this which is fully in line with Labour thinking. However, now we know where we stand and we shall have to cut our coat accordingly. It seems that we shall have to limit our co-operative scheme to a few shops here and there and forget such things as bakeries, hotels, department stores, and the rest."
But Mr Nash said nothing like that.
Second occasion, March 1946. Discussion in Mr Nash's office on proposals for community planning, including planning of consumer services. (see page 22)
Now, for the second time, Mr Nash was directly confronted with large-scale, comprehensive proposals for co-operative expansion in the Hutt Valley. Again, he would surely have been well advised to say something like this to the prospective planners:
Mr Nash: "I see that you wish to plan for all consumer services in the area, on a fully co-operative basis. I take it that this is in line with the petitions which were taken last year and presented to us. When those petitions were presented to the Government I perhaps failed to realise that you were in earnest about this. But now that the question of large-scale co-operative schemes has cropped up again in a more definite way I feel that it is necessary that we should be clear about the financial implications involved. It is going to cost many thousands of pounds to do all that you wish to do. Where do you propose getting the money from?" (and then the conversation would proceed as on the first occasion.)
Mr Nash, however, didn't say any of these things this time, either.
Third occasion, December 1946. Reception by the Government of the letter from the Hutt Valley Consumers' Co-operative Society, asking for a formal decision regarding support for the Society's plans for business expansion. (see page 32)
Now, if ever, Mr Nash should have got down to straightforward dealing with the Hutt Valley co-operators. For here was a formal request to the Government for "whatever assistance is necessary"
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to implement a detailed and explicit scheme of co-operative development. In reply the Government undertook (under certain conditions) to have buildings erected "to permit the extension and development of co-operative trading" and "to placing the whole of the commercial services and trading businesses under the exclusive control of the . . . co-operative society." I have already remarked how empty and nonsensical this undertaking must be without a corresponding undertaking (expressed or implied) to supply essential finance for equipment and stock, but a final sentence in the Government's letter - "In particular; without making any financial commitments, the Government welcomes the proposals of co-operative trading. . . and will do all it can to assist the Society to achieve its objective." - seemed sufficient warrant under the circumstances for assuming that this essential finance would in fact be forthcoming.
Now these decisions were made by Cabinet. So, once again, if Mr Fash had wished to adopt a really responsible attitude in the matter, he would have said to his Cabinet colleagues: "We as a Government can't give these people the assistance they are asking for. The most that we could, possibly do would be to provide buildings on rental terms, leaving it to the co-operative society to arrange its own finance for their equipment and stock and any other purposes. And we should tell them this plainly and without delay, as they seem to have got the impression that the Government would be prepared to arrange this finance. As for any suggestion that the Government should grant the Hutt Valley Co-operative Society a monopoly of trading services, that is plainly absurd, as the Society couldn't begin to raise the very large sums required, the offer would go by default, and everybody - including the Government - made to look ridiculous."
But nothing like that, it would seem, was said by Mr Nash at that Cabinet meeting. Rather, he was the one who drafted the Cabinet minute in terms of which Mr Skinner phrased the letter to the Co-operative Society described on pages 32 and 33.
Fourth occasion, December 1946. Discussion with Mr Nash on terms of advertisement for General Manager and salary to be offered (p 34)
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Here was evidence before Mr Nash's eyes that the Co-operative Society was preparing to enter into definite commitments based upon the assumption of the practicability of certain large-scale plans for business expansion. Instead of approving these commitments, he surely had a moral obligation to point out that there must be some misunderstanding in the minds of the Hutt Valley co-operators on the question of finance. He should have hastened to emphasise that there could be no question of State finance being provided, and that unless the Co-operative Society had some source of wealth unknown to him their plans for expansion were wholly impracticable.
Had he said this, it would then have come to light that the co-operators had in fact expected (for various good reasons) State financial assistance, and that their plans were based upon that expectation. It would have been left for Mr Nash to express his regret and apologies that an apparent misunderstanding had been allowed to persist for so long; and to point out that it was a good thing the misunderstanding had been cleared up before salaries of £1,250 were being offered for General Managers to organise and operate bakeries, cinemas, department stores, and all the rest.
But no, Mr Nash said none of these things. He continued (consciously or unconsciously) to lead the Hutt Valley Consumers' Cooperative Society "up the garden path."
We must now retrace our steps to the end of the year 1945, and discuss the rise and fall of the next phase of the Hutt Valley community planning project - the health centre scheme. We shall see that however indefinite might have been the Labour Government's backing for the consumers' co-operative scheme, their declared support for the health centres was enthusiastic and explicit. Nevertheless, when the time came for decision and action, the health centre scheme was also destroyed by the Labour Government.

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