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