Successful Mayday

Blackball had its biggest Mayday yet with over 100 people in attendance.


The day started with Te Puawai Co-operative’s shareholders giving the go ahead to facilitate the establishing of a Blackball-based shuttle and relocation service for the Paparoa Track Great Walk.

By lunchtime, the hall was reaching capacity point for Mario Alzugaray, the Cuban ambassador to brief the gathering on current US imperialist moves in Central and South America and the situation in Venezuela.

With the arrival of Climate Minister, James Shaw and Agriculture Minister and local MP, Damien O’Connor, the forum on climate change got under way.

Blackball resident, Te Whaea Ireland, welcomed in te reo Maori, Lisa Tumahai, Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere, who then spoke of the research and preparations for climate change the iwi were making: movements toward sustainability, guaranteeing of power supply, confronting dairying issues, and contemplating relocation of some marae and other facilities. They are thinking of a  time span is 500 years. ‘It is our task to hold the land for succeeding generations,’ she said.

James Shaw then spoke of the Zero Carbon Bill and its implications, emphasising that there were many voices to be listened to in terms of  impact, but that it was an absolutely necessary move.

West Coast Regional Council chairperson, Andrew Robb spoke of the difficulties faced at the local level as coping with climate change brought additional expense, balked at by the ratepayer. Grey District mayor, Tony Kokshoorn, said the provincial growth fund had promise but the question remained of how to turn promises into sustainable jobs.

Three young people from the Students Strike for Climate movement then gave passionate statements about the need for immediate action, the need to stop the slow pussyfooting of government and local bodies scared of electoral backlash. ‘It is our future at stake,’ they said. They received a standing ovation.


One of a small, elderly group of the extractivist bent then saw fit to insult these young people by calling them brainwashed. The rest of the room was flabbergasted, but one of the students, aged 12, confronted him. ‘We’ve done our research and we will not be silenced,’ she said.

For a moment the issue was crystal clear: the forces of death confronted by the forces of life.

A short service to mark Workers Memorial Day was conducted by Garth Elliott of the E tu union, with a wreath laid by Lorna Crane from the Labour Party, before the young people opened the new exhibition on climate change, a creative response to the issue by students from Lake Brunner, Barrytown and Karoro Schools.


The day finished with a march through town to the Community Centre Hall for the final performance of Kiwi/Possum’s play Whenua/DP4Lot173 to an appreciative audience.


Mayday, May 4th – advance notice

climate pic

This year’s theme is climate change and James Shaw will be keynote speaker at the forum which focuses on the topic: Is the West Coast prepared for climate change? Representatives of local councils and the regional council will also be there. Mario Alzugaray, the Cuban Ambassador will also tell us about Cuba’s response.

Full programme:

At the Blackball Working Men’s Club

11.00am AGM of Te Puawai Co-operative Society; all welcome.

12 noon: lunch $10 donation.

12.40pm: Cuban Ambassador speaking on the need to confront US imperialism in South America.

1pm: Forum.

3pm: Acknowledgement of Workers Memorial Day, followed by opening of exhibition on climate change at the Museum, which focuses on the coming generation’s point of view.

3.30pm: March to Community House.

4pm: Performance of Kiwi/Possum’s play about the land, Whenua/DP4, Lot173.

Poster Blackball

5.15pm: Early meal at Community House. $15

6.30pm. Mayday Quiz at Working Men’s Club.


Mayday Programme

Mayday – the day when workers across the world celebrate their contribution to society.


 This year’s Mayday, jointly hosted by Mahi Tupuna, Blackball Museum of Working Class History, Unions West Coast, West Coast Labour Party and West Coast Greens will be held at the Blackball Working Men’s Club and Mutual School of Arts, Main Road, Blackball, beginning on Friday 27th April at 7.30pm with the annual debate. This year’s topic: Until a single wage supports a family there will not be a stable society.

And then on Saturday April 28th, the programme is as follows:

10.00am: AGM of Te Puawai Co-operative Society Limited. Shareholders and supporters, or even the curious, are welcome.

11.00am: Presentation by Te Puawai working group of a proposed co-operative structure for Blackball’s response to the Paparoa Track opportunity. All residents and wider district stakeholders welcome.

12.00pm Cultural interlude: Songs of Solidarity.

12.10pm Lunch. $10/unwaged $7.50.

1.00pm Forum. Transposing the values and intent of Labour-led Government (biculturalism, equity, living wage, diversity, regional development…) to the West Coast (Local Bodies, Development West Coast, Economic Development agencies, local business, media, NGOs, tourist operations, CBD development).

Keynote speaker: Right Honourable Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Development.

Also in attendance in mentor role: Labour MPs, Poto Williams & Rino Tirikatene; plus Cuban Ambassador, Mario Alzugaray. Local body representatives, community and business leaders and all citizens of a progressive mind are invited to attend the forum, with an eye to next year’s local body elections.

3pm Opening of new Exhibition at Museum: A woman’s right: Equal Pay, Equal Opportunity (past and present) by Poto Williams. Curated by Blackball Museum.

3.30pm. Afternoon tea and for those who wish, travel to Punakaiki for The Petrel Festival (food available).


We hope you can come to all or part of the day. Enquiries:



Newsletter Dec 2017

It has felt like an unsettled year; is it the fact that a mafioso have control of the US Empire? I’m not sure the Russian Empire is much better and the Nats had become moribund in their meanness. The Coast is faced with transition – to what is the question? No one really seems capable of the focused, value-based thinking that has gone on in Maoridom. We miss the culture of solidarity that underground mining bred, while at the same time knowing that climate change makes coal a problematic source of energy. But you can make carbon filters, carbon foam, carbon fibre from coal, coat electronic chips with coal dust (it’s better than silicon) – but no one seems capable of pursuing these options and the value added manufacturing that could be associated. And then there’s hemp and organic dairying…


Cuban Ambassador, Mario Alzugaray  and Damien O’Connor

On Mayday we launched a new initiative, Te Puawai Co-operative Society Limited, to endeavour to begin the task of pursuing initiatives in a co-operative, collective manner. It won’t be simple, for the hegemony is against such an initiative, the local capitalist class will be unsupportive, and the internalised controls, even in working people, will operate for an indifferent status quo. But we consider it is worth trying and were motivated by the Cuban ambassador’s presentation detailing the government’s backing of co-ops in Cuba to try and stop income inequality from occurring as they move away from a centralised socialist economic model.


Green MP, Julie Anne Genter

We also tackled the Green/Labour ‘problem’ on Mayday and the role of environmentalism on the Coast; trying to dissolve the anti-Green fundamentalism, but also the Green fundamentalism that can exist. Julie Anne Genter and Damien O’Connor talked through the issues with audience discussion following, and we included NZ First and the volatile 1080 issue before opening our winter exhibition: ‘Who are you going to vote for’ which involved extracts from a number of interviews with local people as to their political inclinations. The Blackball school children had joined us in preparing the exhibition which, in retrospect, actually mirrored pretty accurately the election result. On the Friday night we had the Mayday debate at the Working Men’s Club on the topic: ‘Shoot the Rich’. It was a volatile affair and I got to play Donald Trump. I had picked up a characterisation tip from the net: pout your lips and raise an eyebrow.

debate 5

The annual Pike Commemoration has a life of its own and this year of course, we were there to celebrate the re-entry. Andrew Little was in attendance together with representatives from E Tu. Ex Spring Creek miner, Kevin Hibberd gave the reminiscence and once again the local children made flowers for the families to place. Local musicians were present and the event increasingly tends toward festival.


Andrew Little, Minister for Pike re-entry, speaking.

We hosted St Cuthberts College from Christchurch for a day and visitor numbers continue to be strong. With the Paparoa Great Walk opening in 2019, visitors passing through will significantly increase. We have received a grant from Lotteries Regional Community Fund to put a toilet on the site and this is currently underway.

The summer exhibition, Blackball Belles tells the stories of eight local women. It is an interesting insight into the modern working class woman.


The theme for Mayday next year and for our winter exhibition will be pay equity.

We continue to be an organising centre for Unions West Coast and presented a Living Wage submission to the Grey District Council’s annual plan. Unfortunately Council’s response was extracted from a submission by the NZ Taxpayers’ Union. It was a sad indication of the fragility of working class heritage even in a place like the West Coast. We also supported the Pike pickets at the mine entrance.

Living wage group

Presenting Living Wage submission to Grey District Council

We remain very grateful for union support of what is, to quote a comment in the visitor book by a UK visitor, Professor Ward from the University of Huddlesfield, ‘An important monument to working class history’ and anticipate a more progressive year under the new government.

Heoi ano na

Paul Maunder (Co-ordinator)


New exhibition, Blackball Belles opens. The exhibition covers the stories of eight Blackball women and constitutes a powerful women’s voice. Thanks to all concerned.


This year’s Pike Commemoration will take place Sunday November 19th at 5pm. It will be a special day given the announcement of re-entry. Andrew Little will be there. All welcome.



A well-attended Mayday, 2017 was jointly hosted by Unions West Coast, West Coast Labour, West Coast Greens and the Blackball Museum. A special welcome was given to Mario Alzuguray, the Cuban Ambassador. Our relationship to Cuba is very precious to us.


                                The Cuban ambassador and Damien O’Connor

The first session was devoted to the election and to trying to resolve some of the contradictions that arise on the Left  and to begin to establish a coherent progressive voice for the Coast.

As MC, Garth Elliott stated in his introduction, the first contradiction is expressed in the phrase: I can’t vote Labour because they’re going to be in coalition with the Greenies. That became so intense last election, that some miners left the union because of the union’s donation to the Greens. Behind it is the view that the Greens take away the well-paying jobs down here; jobs which are generally in the extraction industries. When asked what will replace them the Greenies talk about tourism or the service sector where jobs are badly paid and precarious and often done by people on working visas. For these workers, the Green vision seems to see the Coast as a nature reserve, a playground for the well heeled middle class.

The second contradiction is more recent: if the fiscal responsibility position is adhered to, how can badly needed funds be found for the education and health sectors and to bring wages up.


Green MP, Julia Anne Genter

The Labour MP for the Coast, Damien O’Connor and Green MP, Julie Anne Genter both addressed these issues. This was followed by a panel looking at the role of environmentalists and environmentalism on the Coast, where 84% of the land is conservation estate, and the need to negotiate fundamentalist viewpoints. Panelist, Paul Maunder, introduced the concept of the extractive reserve, first developed in Brazil.


Local environmentalist, Keith Morfett.

The 1080 issue was then addressed by the MPs present, with little headway being made with anti 1080 activists.

A choir interlude followed with songs from a recent production on the Coast transition economy.


The choir entertained.

In the afternoon, the safer ground of some local environmental projects was trodden, from kiwi sanctuary to the replanting of two wetland areas.

Mayor Kokshoorn then opened a new exhibition at the museum: Who you going to vote for? a collection of snippets from interviews with local people. The MPS found the exhibition very stimulating.

Finally, Te Puawai Co-operative Society was launched by the Cuban Ambassador, who spoke of the role of co-operatives in the new Cuban economy.

te puawai-1 Paul

Paul Maunder explained Te  Puawai as follows: The initial co-operative is an incubator for a co-operative movement. An incubator enables birth and growth in a difficult environment. The initial environment is liable to be difficult because of competition from the ‘big boys’ or the ‘local boys’, regional circumstances such as a small local market, a lack of understanding or familiarity with the model and so on. But hopefully, the difficulties should reduce and the co-operative chain become strong.

What is the model? Membership is based on shareholding: shares are $5 each, you need to buy 4 shares to become a member. You are welcome to buy more shares or make a donation, but you still have one vote. Initial membership and investment will be one of goodwill and belief in the idea.

The incubator will advocate, educate and research opportunities for producer or consumer or employee-owned, or service co-operatives – and often these categories overlap.

They will then nurture a co-op into  economic life. Co-ops are of course, run on the basis of equality of those involved. It’s not a boss  – worker relationship. The workers manage themselves. Initially, the incubator could provide accounting services for a co-op which operates under its umbrella.

It is envisaged that there will be trade union interest and that the union membership will be an initial, easily accessed market. The co-operative model should also appeal to NGOs, schools and the community sector.

An important issue for co-operatives is the question of equity if someone leaves. What can they take with them? But that issue can be dealt with if one is aware of it from the start. Co-operatives are value based, having values of equality and equity, self determination, a benign relationship to the environment and the well being of families who participate.

Paul explained that the first step was for people present to register their interest and for eight to sign the application for registration. Once registered a meeting will be called to sign people up as members and  elect a board.

Te Puawai

Mario, Paul and Te Whaea

The Mayday concluded with Te Whaea Ireland, who gifted the name Te Puawai (blossoming), saying a karakia.