A history of the contribution New Zealand's Public Service made during the First World War provides new insights into the impact the conflict had on the home front, says State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie.

The Public Service at War, produced in partnership between the State Services Commission and Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, documents how the Public Service adapted and innovated to meet the needs of the country under extremely difficult circumstances.

Mr Rennie says the challenges the Public Service faced were immense.

"Entirely new departments had to be created and staffed, while existing departments were required to shift quickly into war mode and grapple with new roles and responsibilities-all the while under trying conditions such as severe budgetary constraints and maintaining normal services," says Mr Rennie.

"More than 8,000 public servants served during the conflict, and more than 1,000 lost their lives - so this has been an important story for us to tell."

"The research undertaken to complete The Public Service at War has brought untold stories of New Zealand's home front to life," says Neill Atkinson, Chief Historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

"It has been a rewarding experience to work with the State Services Commission to develop this resource. Their recognition of the contribution made by public servants in the past means these stories can be shared with new audiences today."

Topics in the new web publication range from the processes involved in sending troops to the conflict, including the management of conscription, to the often controversial efforts to police the war effort and the harnessing of the country's agricultural products for supply to Britain.

The content also includes a feature on New Zealand's postal service, developed with the support of New Zealand Post, and a feature on New Zealand railways at war. 

In addition to written text, the publication is brought to life with a large collection of images, including maps, posters and a range of Roll of Honour boards commemorating public servants who served. Poignant examples of letters of condolence sent to families from grieving colleagues are also included.


The Public Service at War can be viewed at nzhistory.net.nz/war/the-public-service-at-war.

The ballot record room in the Wairarapa Farmers' Co-operative Association (WFCA) building in Wellington, c. 1918. More than 350,000 individual files were stored here. Credit: Statistics New Zealand collection.


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