The troops’ depression was matched at home. The seemingly unbreakable stalemate, the shockingly long casualty lists, the numbing tension of waiting for news of loved ones and the inconveniences of wartime life all combined to produce a deep war-weariness and malaise among the population during 1917.
The removal of so many working-age men had a severe impact on New Zealand’s economy. While farmers managed to sustain production by using family or cooperating with each other, industries and services that supported them struggled. Women increasingly made up shortfalls in the labour force, although this was regarded as a temporary measure.
Implementing conscription brought controversy and heartache. Conscientious objectors (who objected to fighting in the war) struggled to obtain release from its clamp – some of the unsuccessful were dragged to the front – while the prospect of drafting married men with children caused widespread unease. Māori were generally excluded from the ballots that decided men’s fates, though in 1918 the government attempted to apply the scheme to Waikato Māori (with a conspicuous lack of success).
The effects of the war, especially the rising cost of living, had an unsettling effect. Industrial disputes, particularly on the wharves and in coal mines, characterised the final two years of the war.