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)