Who we are

We are a local museum in the ex coal mining village of Blackball, telling the story of the 1908 strike which saw the local miners lead the country into a new political era. We also mount local heritage exhibitions, exhibitions on current social and political issues, host a schools' programme teaching students the virtue of collective action, and run events reflecting a people's  culture.

The Museum was opened in 2009 and is supported by: E tu union, Tertiary Education Union, Public Service Association, the Dairy Workers Union, the Maritime Union of NZ and First Union. Infrastructure development has been funded by TrustPower, Development West Coast, Lotteries NZ, the West Coast Development Trust, Blackadder Trust and the Grey District Council.

Current Board: Nick Secker, Wayne Collins, Garth Elliott, Paul Kearns, Caroline Selwood, Tania Smallridge, Paul Maunder.

Winter Exhibition: Summer Exhibition: Life on the Flat; based on the memoir of Norma Christie. The exhibition describes the life of a small community of mainly Scottish immigrants living on the flat below Blackball in the 1920s and 1930s.

Schools' programme

We run a one day interactive programme, Without our brain and muscle, designed for years: 6-10.  The children are transported back to early last century conditions, the miners going to work for insufficient pay and the family budget stretched. What can they do?


Celebrating Mayday is a major event on the Museum's calendar, bringing people from all over New Zealand. This year's programme, held on Saturday April 28 at the Blackball Working Men's Club, featured the AGM of Te Puawai Co-operative Society Limited. Shareholders and supporters were welcomed and after the official business, Alison Hale and Princess Hart from the Reefton Artists' Co-op told the story of thier co-op. A proposed co-operative structure for Blackball’s response to the Paparoa Track opportunity was discussed.Lunch saw a cultural interlude with a group singing Songs of Solidarity before a well attended forum discussed: Transposing the values and intent of Labour-led Government (biculturalism, equity, living wage, diversity, regional development…) to the Coast. The forum was chaired by the Minister of Agricuture, and local MP, Damien O'Connor Also in attendance in mentor role were Labour MPs Poto Williams and Green MP, Jan Logie  plus the Cuban Ambassador, Mario Alzugaray.  A gathering of 70 people rigorously discussed the topic with two themes being dominant: the need for a proper just transition and the need to keep young people on the Coast. Finally, the Winter Exhibition at the Museum: A woman’s right: Equal Pay, Equal Opportunity (past and present) was opened by Poto Williams.

Next Mayday will be held on May 4th, the forum will focus on whether the Coast is prepared for Climate Change. The Honourable James Shaw will be the keynote speaker, together with local body representatives.

Stop Press: We were recently honoured to receive the inaugural Frederick George Evans Grant from the Workers Institute for Scientific Education. The grant was made 'in recognition of the museum's significant role in retaining a living record of NZ workers' struggles historically and its contribution to the awareness of current working class issues and struggles.'

An intervention

The Museum has facilitated the setting up of a co-operative incubator as a response to the need for a transition economy. More information and details about applying for membership is available at www.tepuawai.co.nz.

Te Puawai launched by Cuban Ambassador.

Links: video  Walter Shaw of Blackball reminisces - YouTube; Pike Commemoration in Blackball 2016 -YouTube; Picket at Pike River Mine -YouTube. Accommodation www.blackballhilton.co.nz. Food www.blackballsalami.co.nz. Walking Croesus Track. Walking and tramping in Southern Paparoa Range.


Copyright Mahi Tupuna - Blackball Museum of Working Class History