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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Impact on Industry

The introduction of the licensing of passenger and goods services and, later, of town carriers, taxi, and rental-vehicle services has created an industry the ownership of which is represented by influential and highly organised bodies, such as the New Zealand Road Transport Alliance, the New Zealand Carriers' Federation, and other organisations representing the passenger, taxi, and rental-vehicle industries. In the striking development of the industry in the post-war years these bodies have played a significant part by promoting the interests of the operators in every possible way. Since 1938 the goods industry has nearly doubled its fleet of trucks and other specialised vehicles, while the proportional increase in carrying capacity has been even higher. Public carriers now run nearly 21,000 vehicles. There has, nevertheless, been an even greater increase in ancillary transport in vehicles owned by traders, farmers, and all other persons or firms carrying their own goods. In 1938 there were four ancillary trucks for every truck owned by a private operator; today there are seven. Increases in public carriers' charges and the prestige and convenience of owning transport have helped to bring about this increase in ancillary transport. Much of it is used far below full capacity and certainly with less efficiency than is the case with public carriers. Similar reasoning applies to the fleet of over half a million private and business cars using the roads. This is, of course, a manifestation of individual freedom in the free-enterprise economy. No solution to the problem is likely to be found, but it is, nevertheless, a waste of economic resources.

The growth of motor transport can be partially seen in the following estimates for the calendar year 1964.

Milage run by all vehicles including cars 5,700
Passengers carried on public transport 201
Net freight-ton-miles
Public carriers760
Private (carriers) 1,156 1,916

Privately owned cars carry perhaps at least twice as many passengers as public transport.

Besides the enormous contribution it has made to the farming industry, motor transport is proving indispensable elsewhere – in bulk-haulage work, for example, which only a few years ago was thought the province of the railways. Although there is still a good case for protecting the railways, the legal restrictions on the use of road transport for long distances have tended to create the impression that it is uneconomic for this work, an impression which has been effectively dispelled in many other countries.

The disadvantages of the motor vehicle cannot be overlooked. There has been a heavy toll of deaths and injuries on New Zealand roads. Since 1921 over 10,000 people have been killed and over 250,000 injured, many of them seriously. Though it is hard to assess the economic cost of accidents, it would appear, on a moderate estimate, that at least £15,000,000 a year is now lost. The country's fleet of cars (including business cars) alone costs about £130 million a year to run. Motor vehicles have not yet caused air pollution in New Zealand, as they have done elsewhere, but such effects will in time appear. Any realistic assessment of the economic and social contribution of the motor vehicle cannot ignore these facts.

by Norman Frederick Watkins, M.COM., Research Officer, Transport Department, Wellington.