Mayday Programme announced


Mayday is the day when workers across the world celebrate their contribution to society. This year, internationally, the event is going to be huge, and on the Coast we can participate. This year the programme is jointly hosted by Unions West Coast, West Coast Labour, West Coast Greens, and the Blackball Museum. The programme, which includes the launch of a major economic initiative, is as follows:

Friday 28th April: Annual Blackball-Runanga Debate, Blackball Working Men’s Club, 7.15pm. Topic: Shoot the Rich.

Saturday 29th April: Forum >The coming election and environmentalism on the Coast.10.00am-4.00pm, Blackball Working Men’s Club.

Theme: In an era of climate change and a just transition there is a need to move past       fundamentalist positions.

10.00am Welcome followed by discussion: “The problem for Labour on the Coast is the Greens” (from an interview with worker).

Response from Damien O’Connor and from Green Party spokesperson followed by audience discussion.

11.00am Widening the scope: i. The role of environmentalism on the Coast (panel discussion)

ii. 1080, the parties’ stances: Labour, Greens, NZ First.

12.15pm Cultural interlude: Songs from The Measures Taken.

12.30pm Lunch.

1.15pm Think global, act local. Local success stories: Cobden Lagoon (Tony Kokshoorn); Atarau Sanctuary (Paul Berry); Mine clean-ups (DOC), Barrytown planting (James Washer).

2.15pm Opening of Exhibition by Mayor Kokshoorn: Who are you voting for? Curated by Blackball Museum and Paparoa Range students (Blackball site).

2.30pm Afternoon tea.

te puawai-1 Paul

3.00pm Launch of Te Puawai Co-operative Society Limited, an incubator for sustainable co-operatives for the regions but particularly the West Coast. Cuban Ambassador, Mario Alzugaray and MP Damien O’Connor. Applications for membership and shareholding will be available.

Registration to cover catering: $10. Please register via e-mail; or phone 732 4010 or text 0211063669. Pay on the day.




Newsletter, December 2016


The Museum has had a busy year. A new panel telling the Pike story was blessed by Joe Mason from Te Runanga O Ngatiwaewae and opened by Labour leader, Andrew Little at the annual Pike Commemoration.



A further panel narrating the early gold mining history of the district has also been mounted. The battery at the heart of the solar system required replacement. The lawns are maintained with a community-owned ride on mower, whose upkeep we contribute to. We have also acquired video equipment which will enable us to make useful clips for social media. Funding for a public toilet based on the design of the old single men’s huts is currently being sought and we are pursuing the concept of a coffee cart for the museum site during the summer months.


Once again we are grateful to the union movement for our annual funding: E tu, The Dairy Workers Union, PSA, Tertiary Education Union, FIRST Union, NZNO and MUNZ all contribute. It means we can continue to be a site of activism. We were very grateful to receive a donation as part of the winding up of the Rewanui Preservation Society. This donation has gone into a depreciation fund. The public donation box provides us with another few hundred each year.


The winter exhibition on Blackball’s geology was curated in partnership with the local schoolchildren.


This summer the exhibition is based on the life stories of five local men. It is an interesting study of current working class male values.


The next winter exhibition will be election oriented.


We alternate with the Runanga Miners Hall community in organising the annual Mayday programme. The annual debate this year was held in Blackball on the topic: West Coast leadership remains hopeless. For the Mayday seminar we focused once again on the topic of the transition economy. We felt it would be good for the unions to host this seminar and a range of unions agreed to front the event – the body language of the local leaders was interesting. The presentations revealed a paucity of innovation from the local powers that be, but there was a grass roots energy, especially from the young that could be inspiring if given structure.

Mayday pic

As we pursue this topic, local capitalist class inertia proves to be the real problem. It was great to have Mario Alzugaray, the Cuban ambassador present. Our solidarity with Cuba is very important to our organisation. We were humbled to be presented by the outgoing ambassador with a letter of solidarity from the Cuban Five, thanking us for our support.


The Pike Commemoration co-incided with the motorbike ride that is held annually so there was a very good turnout, with Australian representation from CFMEU. Damien O’Connor, Andrew Little and Mayor Tony Kokshoorn were present, as well as the families. The late Helen Kelly was honoured by the speakers.


This year the flowers for the wheel were made by the local schoolchildren. This commemoration is slowly turning into a festival, with an increasing number of musical items. This year Ross Teppet and George Hollingsworth brought their guitars.



Our co-ordinator has picked up on the Stand Up campaign for union education in secondary schools and presented to two classes at the local High School. The first class had never heard of trade unions, so this is a task we will continue to pursue, expanding to the other secondary schools on the Coast. The teaching staff are supportive.

We worked with local theatre group, Kiwi/Possum Productions on a ‘teaching play’ on the transition economy. This was very much a provocation followed by audience discussion and analysis. It was surprising how progressive local opinion was on topics such as Universal Basic Income, Living Wage and organic dairying. We will be the catalyst for a further Living Wage presentation to Council in the new year. The results of these discussions were summarised and presented to Council and Development West Coast on Labour Day.


We are currently pursuing the setting up of an incubator for co-operatives and social enterprises. This is a logical extension of our work on a transition economy. Next Mayday will see the launch of this incubator, plus a debate on the framework for the environmentalist role on the Coast, especially the perceived role of the urban based lobbies.

Visitor numbers:

Numbers continue to be strong (20-30 a day) over the tourist months, which are steadily extending so that the downtime is relatively short. Most visitors to Blackball visit the museum and there are now a sufficient variety of exhibition spaces to capture the spectrum of interests.

The Museum continues to be run on a shoestring budget and is being seen locally as a model to be emulated for other small Coast villages.

A big thank you to our supporters and we wish you a safe summer break.

In solidarity

Garth Elliott (Chairperson)   Paul Maunder (Co-ordinator).



Coming up

Two events coming up: the first is a Labour Day picnic, at Greymouth/Mawhera town square, 2.00pm, October 24th. This will be an opportunity to both christen the new town square as a site for political gatherings and to announce the results of our audience surveys re a transition economy for the Coast. If wet, we’ll transfer to the nearby cafe. A document will be available for people to sign before it is nailed to the doors of the Councils and DWC (maybe blue tacked).

The second event is the annual Pike Commemoration on Saturday November 19th. As well as the usual ritual, including Waiata Koha singing Mine and the families putting flowers on the wheel, a new exhibition telling the Pike story will be opened at the Museum. The event will begin at 6.00pm.

New exhibition- Papatuanuku- Blackball’s Geology


The winter exhibition on Blackball’s geology was prepared in partnership with the senior students at Paparoa Range (Blackball site) school. Geology teacher, Kent Gallagher gave a fascinating talk to the students on the history of the earth and they went from there. The Blackball plateau is made up of sediment from the Paparoas and the children built a clay model of the topography, helped by Jerry Fulford. They also researched the flora and fauna. Tony Manuel (Ngati Porou) donated a painting which forms the motif for the exhibition.

Mayday Forum

Politics as storytelling

Mayday pic

Dairy worker delegates and organiser with Cuban ambassador at Mayday forum

The Mayday seminar on the way forward for the Coast economy was designed as a story-telling event, to test whether there is a narrative we can begin to inhabit. The seminar was union led, with the unions being joined on the organising committee by Runanga and Blackball community organisations and the Grey District Council Economic Development Unit. This in itself is a story which questions whether the discussion is necessarily led by managers and political leaders.

The seminar began with union organisers and delegates reporting from their survey of what Coast workers want? It proved to be a coherent story. The well-organised and fully unionised primary teachers want to retain their collective agreement, don’t want to be individualised by performance pay (instead want a better career path), are fully aware of and will resist corporate attempts to colonise the public system via charter schools and corporate product, and are acting in solidarity with support staff to raise the wages and conditions of these valued colleagues.

The health workers are equally committed to their collective, but are suffering stress and overwork from the underfunding of the service, underfunding designed to drive those who can afford it, into the private sector.

In the government sector and in midwifery, equal pay remains a big issue, as does work life balance. Midwives, self employed yet funded by the state, have only had a 2.5% increase in twenty years.

Those outside the state sector want well paid, secure and meaningful jobs, with career paths available. Not an extravagant  request, but one threateded by the increasing trend to precarious shift work, symbolised at its worst by zero hour contracts.

A cultural worker, who because of the nature of the field, has always worked precariously, stated how a Universal Basic Income would assist people faced with precariousness, as well as pointing out the injustice of arts funding being directed to urban areas.

The story told was a coherent one, of a desire for meaningful and secure livelihoods based in the Coast region.

The politicians and executive officers working in economic development were then asked to respond, this constituting another story. Kevin Hague identified the problem: we focus purely on economics, rather than focusing on the needs of people and the environment – the latter focus should then generate the economic system. But otherwise the response was highly individuated:  visions, personal aims and hopes, institutional charters, with two specific proposals for Buller being mentioned: the wood waste to diesel proposition and the incinerator proposal. But there have been community campaigns in Sicily against their poor region becoming the dumping ground for rich regions’ waste. Will there be community discussion and assessment or is any corporate offer to be jumped at? We seemed to be in a story of fragmentation.

The Cuban ambassador then told the story of the extensive and thorough consultation process (which is ongoing) as that country began to restructure its economy – every strata of society, from unions to farmers to students to neighbourhoods responding to a set of proposed changes.

After lunch three young professionals told their stories of ‘living on the Coast’. Nick was brought up here then left to further his education but has since returned, Elena managed to educate herself while remaining on the Coast (at one stage that required enrolling in a Queensland University on-line course) and Te Whaea has come here to teach. Each of these wonderful young people told of their reasons for living here, the advantages and compromises and their commitment to the community. Lifestyle, access to the natural world are balanced against fewer consumer and cultural opportunities. Affordable housing is a big plus. They reported excellent colleagues and mentoring, but Te Whaea felt the lack of visibility of the Maori story and the lack of multi culturalism (Mayor Tony Kokshoorn stated that funds have become available to tell the tangatawhenua story). But the simple fact that these young people were here, enjoying life and are committed to community involvement was a very hopeful story.

Of course there had been an elephant in the room, the neo liberal master story: that the economy and the political system should facilitate large, usually multinational corporations, to exploit labour, society and the environment in order to return a profit to an increasingly small number of people. We had avoided this story but were reminded of it by Karen Davis as she told of the dairy industry expanding to Chile and China and developing unsustainable farms on the South Island East Coast during the price boom, leading to cows being turned into machines, an inevitable over supply and the inevitable bust (politely called market adjustment), but during which bankruptcies, suicides and community implosions occur. As well, dairy farmers pay very little tax. But we didn’t want (and shouldn’t want) to be sucked into this story.

Three local small business people then told their stories, all equally moving and entertaining: of the creation of the iconic Blackball businesses which had proved sustainable and involved risks, guile and passion, of the absolute integrity of the Garden Shop and its body of skilled workers; of the Putake Honey people, moving from the higher echelons of the corporate world to bee keeping in Marlborough and now the Coast (supported by DWC), because life wasn’t making sense in the flash Sydney apartment. They were stories of passion and commitment, and stories based here.

Finally, there were two possible stories introduced: one the co-operative model developed by the Australian union movement, where union networks provide a committed market for a collectively created product; the other the social enterprise model, where the community organisation grows into a business serving local needs. It is a model which is now at the centre of the economy in many of the marginal rural areas of Scotland.

In the reflection process, there was a feeling of hope, based on the stories of committed people choosing to live here and making that choice a viable one. Damien O’Connor made the point that a change of government is required. It does require political institutions supportive of both collectivism and individual aspiration within that collectivism.

And it was here that there appeared a different beast in the room, the notion that the political party, if you like the story of representation, must originate from within the stories being told, rather than telling a story outside these stories. And of course, the story of socialism developing social democracy was of this nature. As soon as it diverted it disastrously failed. The environmental movement is another such story. Once again, as soon as it diverts it begins to fail.

How this story can be told is another story, yet to be told. Perhaps we could begin with a West Coast charter. Here are some suggestions of what might be in it.

  • That the Coast recognises the special place of tangatawhenua in the history and culture of the region;
  • That the Coast upholds unionism and the value of collective agreements to ensure equity and collaborative management;
  • That the Coast upholds the principles of pay equity;
  • That the Coast values work-life balance and flexible working schedules which contribute to that balance, as well as career paths in all work sectors;
  • That the Coast upholds the public ownership of education and health services, requests adequate funding and that collegiality be preserved;
  • That the Coast, realising an inevitable seasonality in some sectors, the pressures involved in small business and the precariousness that results, is supportive of a Universal Basic Income;
  • That the Coast celebrates and supports sustainable small business loyal to the region and passionate about quality and service;
  • That the Coast celebrates young people committed to the region and to their life here;
  • That the Coast will seek ways and means for a range of online tertiary education to be available to its young people in a supportive environment;
  • That the Coast insists on a regional royalty payment for materials extracted here;
  • That the Coast encourages local processing and the adding of value to materials extracted here;
  • That the Coast recognises the uniqueness and value of its environment and insists on sustainable practices in all areas;
  • That the Coast welcomes investment and corporate ventures but will scrutinise ventures according to the above values;
  • That the Coast in order to rectify the rural/urban divide requests population based access to funding in cultural and research and development areas;
  • That the Coast requests its remoteness and special needs be recognised in the funding of the health and education sectors;
  • That the Coast welcomes refugees from war torn and oppressive regimes and will enter partnerships that enable their transition to our community.

Wouldn’t it be great if such a charter were to be discussed at all levels of Coast society?

Other than the forum an entertaining debate was held on the Friday night at the Blackball Working Men’s Club and Sunday saw a range of community events in Runanga including a cycle race, poetry in the rain forest and a baking competition.


Runanga/Blackball Mayday finalised


Blackball vs. Rûnanga community debate: West Coast Leadership Remains Hopeless
Blackball WMC, Blackball cbd
Free entry. Alcohol available 7.30pm
Sat30Apr>>>The Way Forward>>>
forum – supported by E tu, PSA, Dairy Workers Union, NZNO, NZEI, TEU and the Grey District Council Economic Development Unit.
Response to the current Coast economic crisis (an inevitable bust after the boom) has so far been led by management. The danger is that, as happened in the Global Financial Crisis, public funds will be used to prop up the economic culture that created the crisis. This May Day forum brings the unions (and the workers they represent) into the discussion.
DWC/Mines Rescue Centre
7 Mile Rd, Rapahoe. E-mail or to register.
$10 koha for lunch & refreshments 9.30am-4.30pm
Sat30Apr-Sun1MayWhat have the unions ever done for us?
installation on RMH Green McGowan St. Rûnanga.
Free 8am-8pm
Sun1 May Community day. Ride the Incline, Rûnanga–Rewanui Challenge
$10 per team for RMHT to restore Rûnanga Miners Hall
starts RMH Green. 10.00am Left Coast Big Bake-Off
for RMHT to restore Rûnanga Miners Hall opp.RMH Green McGowan St. Rûnanga.
$10 judging from 11.30am. Pop-up tea & Bake Shop
for RMHT to restore RûnangaMiners Hall opp.RMH Green McGowan St. Rûnanga. Poems in the Rainforestof comrades, coal & climate
Coal Creek Falls Walk
BallanceSt. Rûnunga
Free 10.15am-12pm

Mayday forum

The Way Forward
a forum on a sustainable economy for the Grey District and the wider Coast

The reasoning behind the forum: the response to the current Coast economic crisis (the inevitable bust after the boom) has so far been led by management. The danger is that, as happened in the Global Financial Crisis, public funds will be used to prop up the economic culture that created the crisis. This forum brings the unions (and the workers they represent) into the discussion.

The draft narrative for the forum:
• Union organisers/delegates report on feedback to question: what do workers want? E.g. a teacher: ‘Jobs for our families so they can stay here.’ 10.00-10.30am
• Response from politicians (MPs and mayors), council CEO’s, Kevin Stratful (Economic Development Manager), Te Runanga O Kati Waewae and Mawhera Incorporation. 10.30-11.30am
• Response from floor. 11.30-12.
• Lunch. 12 – 12.45pm
• Past mistakes e.g. no royalty fund from extraction, no retraining scheme, reactive culture, poor politicking e.g. native timber campaign, DWC’s role… provocation followed by discussion from floor 12.45- 1.15pm
• Macro factors – neoliberal monoculture 1.15 -1.45pm
• Sustainable models already here 1.45pm- 2.30pm.
• Afternoon tea 2.30pm-2.45pm
• New models(including co-operative model), new ventures (knowledge/creative economy) 2.45pm -3.30pm
• What is required right now in terms of achieving praxis; provocation followed by discussion 3.30 -4.00pm.

We are pleased that the forum is being hosted by the following unions: E tu, Dairy Workers, TEU, NZEI, NZNO, PSA and FIRST Union, together with the Blackball Museum, Runanga Miners Hall Trust and Runanga Area Association and the Grey District Council’s Economic Development Unit.

The forum will be held on Saturday April 30th, at the Mines Rescue Centre, entrance off the main road just north of Runanga township. There will be a $10 registration fee to cover catering costs. Registrations: