Story: Seafarers

Deserters at New Zealand ports, 1900–54

Deserters at New Zealand ports, 1900–54

This graph shows the numbers of merchant seamen reported for deserting at New Zealand ports during the first half of the 20th century. The fluctuating numbers were influenced by economic conditions not just in the country of origin but also in New Zealand. Economic depression in the early 1920s and 1930s discouraged visiting seamen from leaving their ships. The huge increase in desertions at the end of the Second World War reflected the higher standard of living in New Zealand compared to war-weary Britain. In response, in 1950 the New Zealand government changed the law so that British deserters could be deported, which greatly reduced their numbers; ‘foreign’ (non-British) deserters had been liable for deportation since 1908.

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Source: 'Annual report on the police force.' Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1901-1955, H-16

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How to cite this page:

Neill Atkinson, 'Seafarers - Crew culture', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 January 2022)

Story by Neill Atkinson, published 12 Jun 2006