Herculean problems in European economy after WWII meant that unemployment was high, food and commodities short and entire nations were struggling to recover.
In the meantime, New Zealand, Australia, Canada had lost many men of fighting age helping the Empire in both WWI and WWII and when these numbers were converted into a percentage of their still small populations the effects of the gap this left in the remaining populations were a truly savage.
Each of these countries had massive land areas and few people, and needed roads, hospitals, bridges, and had housing shortages… all were building in countries that were reaching their developing arms steadily into their rural areas, whilst at the same time updating and expanding their urban centers. Demand for skilled workers, entrepreneurs and tradespeople soured. Added to that it was quickly recognised that under-population would make any country face serious viability problems, so Governments appear to have sensibly put their heads together and recognized that they could solve each others problems.
The Dutch Government offered Assisted Passage (basically that’s a one way boat ticket) to people with the necessary skills who were willing to embark on the six week voyage and emigrate and in due course between 1945 until 1975 roughly 20,000 Dutch nationals found themselves New Zealand bound.
My father tells me how it all happened… apparently once he had the necessary paperwork he simply turned up at a Rotterdam wharf to take a ship… and on one side of the wharf there was ship bound for Canada, on the other, one bound for New Zealand. He said he intended to take the one for Canada, simply because although he knew very little indeed about Canada, he knew even less about New Zealand.
He walked towards it and was surprised to see a former school friend descend the gangplank… this friend was returning to The Netherlands to visit family after several years in Canada.
They chatted, yes Canada was wonderful, stunning in fact, the space and opportunities amazing, all the work and overtime you wanted and he earned enough in a few short years to be able to come home for a visit and to bring money back to help his parents and his little brothers and sisters… the downside was that Canada was cold. Very cold. And that as a carpenter his work was seasonal, as a single chap he worked like a madman every hour he could in the warmer months and then struggled to get much work outside his trade in the winter, the money was excellent, overtime was available as much as you wanted in summer, but you had to save and plan for the winter months. How cold were the winters? The snow covered the fences around the fields, you could ski right over the fences in winter he said…..
My father was also a carpenter, he said that the money sounded wonderfully enticing but the thought of long cold winter months and the prospect of having to find work outside his trade for part of the year was not something he relished.
He said they chatted a bit more and after the conversation ended, my Father turned and walked instead to the ship bound for New Zealand.
He know only one thing about the country, …it was not as cold as Canada.