Successful Mayday

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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