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. 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.
Newsletter 5, December, 2014
We received $21000 from Lotteries Environment and Heritage and the project is now well underway, a new container ordered and panels designed and concrete about to be poured.
The new container will house a mockup section of the old mine, with the gear, some photos and outside a collage of current Blackball life: Life after coal.
Exhibitions: The summer exhibition on Blackball Churches, which gave us an opportunity to explore the role of the church in the early union movement was replaced with an exhibition entitle You and the boss which explored employment relations and the coming election. The summer exhibition, Not just jam and Jerusalem looks at the history of the Women's Institute.
Mayday saw the usual range of activities. It began with a debate between the two local high schools on whether voting was important for young people and was followed by the annual Runanga versus Blackball debate. Saturday saw a well-attended performance of the play The Judgement of Ben Alder followed by dinner at the Community House and a speech by Kevin Hague on A just transition economy for the West Coast.
September saw the 50th anniversary of the Blackball Mine closure which we marked with a well-attended dinner at the Working Men's Club. The old timers publicly reminisced and Jeffrey Holman read some poems.
The Pike commemoration has become the main public marking of the occasion and this year it co-incided witht he announcement that the mine will not be re-entered. Local choir Waiata Koha premiered a moving four part rendition of a poem Jeffrey Holman has written for the families.
Museum Board members were central in organising the Get Out and Vote Campaign and presented together with church groups a Living Wage submission to the Grey District Council.
Newsletter 4, December 2013
Mayday saw a comprehensive programme of events: a well-attended debate at the Working Men's Club, a Community Forum on the state of the community sector, a march through town followed by the launching of a local Living Wage Campaign, a performance of the popular Waihi Oratorio by Kiwi/Possum Productions, with the day winding up with a dinner at THe Hilton with speeches from a crossection of locals voicing their political concerns.
The Living Wage Campaign. Council candidates were asked to indicate their support, with seven being in favour. Unfortunately they were not elected. But a submission and a presentation will be made to Council's annual plan round. Meanwhile two major articles have been published in the local press.
Schools programme. Workshops with geography students from St Cuthberts and history students from Grey High were held during the year.
Exhibitions: The Living Wage exhibition ran during the winter and a new exhibition called: For Sale- one church, one country combines the story of Blackball's churches (the last one closed this year) and cartoons from the TPPA campaign.
Extension plans: Funding has been applied for to extend the museum to include a permanent exhibition of Blackball Memorabilia. Retired miner, Les Neilson had items he wishes to donate.
Visitor numbers remain steady and appreciative: 'A proud history. Thanks. (UK); 'Very interesting to see the history I've previously read about' (Christchurch; 'Great Grandfather on list of strikers' (Matamata); 'Inspiring Museuem - SP;idarity now as well as then' (Sydney; 'Powerful' (Sweden; 'Strong politics' (Beijing)...
Pike River Commemoration: Another good turnout to the service come ritual which takes place centred on the memorial wheel. This has now become the major commemoration event and much appreciated by the families. The naitonal press were in attendance.
Newsletter 3, December 2011
Events: The Labour Day picnic was once again successful, with a bigger turnout. The
children enjoyed playing petanque and marbles, and we were pleased to welcome
a delegation of Dairy Workers Union members from Hokitika.
We presented them with a certificate ofappreciation of their
As well, we unveiled a new carving by Tony Manuel (Ngati Porou) and opened a new
exhibition, Who Cares? which focuses on the caring Industry from a local perspective.
Finally, Lorna Crane from the local Labour Party addressed the gathering on the recent
election and the West Coast Wobblies sang a selection of union songs.
There was a general appreciation of being able to register the real
meaning of Labour Day.
Pike Memorial Day: On Sat 19th November, the union movement held a service at the
Workers Memorial Wheel. The EPMU were there in strength and Helen Kelly
represented the wider movement. The families each placed a rose on the wheel as
the names were read out. It was great to hear Bernie Monk express solidarity with
the union movement.
International Visitors: Members of the International Federation of Chemical,
Energy, Mine and General Workers Union visited the Museum with EPMU organisers.
Schools Programme: This has now been trialled and both programmes work
remarkably well. The Without our brain and muscle programme takes place in Blackball. After looking at life in
1908 and 2011 and investigating why people work for wages, the students are divided into families. The men are employed shovelling coal into sacks in our 'mine', while the women prepare lunch.
After the men come back and lunch is over, a family budget is handed out and the results of the men's work posted. They don't earn enough to live on. The students instinctively start to cut back on their expenses (i.e. explore the
culture of poverty), until prompted: Is there another solution? After some blank stares, there is inevitably one student who suggests they go on strike and bargain with the boss. Negotiations then begin, with often health and
educational services requested. After realising that children go through 13000 hours of education with not one hour being devoted to teaching them their rights in the workplace, perhaps we are filling a gap?
The other programme, Making Change, begins with a role play involving child labour, resulting in the exploration of an ethical conundrum: If you have something of value, and need some money, do you necessarily sell it? It then
moves on to explore current issues: climate change, carbon capture, fossil fuels, the role of coal, sustainability, regional economies....
Union Support: We now have a healthy range of union supporters, for which we are very grateful. With this level, we are almost sustainable in terms of infrastructural costs. The supporting unions are: NZ Dairy Workers, Tertiary
Education Union, Maritime Union of NZ, National Distribution Union (now FIRST union), NZ Amalgamated Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union. The quote below sums up our kaupapa:
"...it is important to stress the capacity for self expression of working class
people and communities, and the ways in which they draw on the past, and
senses of place and tradition, to re-interpret and re-work contemporary identity,
especially in the face of economic, social and political changes that have
eroded long-standing bonds of class solidarity." Heritage, Labour and the
Site Development: The wheelchair ramp is now in place and we are beginning to explore a new installation-come-exhibition space for the back area of the section. This will look at the future: transition economies, just
transitions, models of post capitalism and the role of workers/unions in such a society. Phill Rooke has come up with the idea of an outdoor gallery of visual puns on the issues and we will also need an indoor exhibition space. As
part of next year's Mayday Celebrations, we intend holding an Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, inviting local movers and shakers to look at the next 50 years regionally.
2012 exhibitions: The next exhibition will feature the Asset Sales controversy. We are waiting for political developments before deciding on the one after that.
We wish our friends and supporters a restful and creative summer, for the next three years could well be difficult ones.
Paul Maunder Garth Elliott