Blackball is Labour's spiritual home – a mining town with strong and deep roots in the union movement and organised Labour. The 'cribtime' strike at Blackball in 1908 created the national union structure in New Zealand. The fight for better conditions at work began there and in other towns like Blackball, at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th Centuries.
And last weekend, Andrew Little headed to the Labour Party Region 5 (top of the South Island) regional conference, held in Blackball to celebrate Labour's Centenary.
Blackball in 1951 — 13 years before the pit closed.
On the Sunday morning of the conference and after a lecture on Labour History in Blackball, Andrew addressed delegates in the local Workingmen's Club. He spoke about recapturing the spirit of the early founders of the Labour movement in New Zealand; how many of the fights they fought over 100 years ago are as relevant today as they were then; how this government is increasingly arrogant and out of touch; and how Labour will win the next election, rebuilding the Kiwi Dream for all New Zealanders – not just the privileged few.
Andrew speaking to delegates at the conference.
After Andrew's speech, everyone headed outside for a group photo in front of the Blackball Museum – definitely a conference to remember.
Andrew also met with E Tū delegates at the Blackball Museum to remember the Pike River 29 and all those who go to work and never return.
Afterwards, Andrew and local Labour MP Damien O'Connor popped into the Blackball Hilton – the local pub – for a coffee (it was only 11am!).
The Hotel is a tribute to the strength of organised Labour – full of memorabilia of the union movement and Labour Party, including images of Labour Prime Ministers and the First Labour Cabinet.
Andrew was flying home from Westport, an hour and a half north, and stopped to visit the historic Rūnanga Miners Hall – a hub of the union movement on the coast.
Unfortunately, the hall has fallen into disrepair. The rotten floor has recently been removed and a new roof had to be installed after the old one collapsed in a large storm. Funds are being raised right now to refurbish the Category I historic building. It's always incredibly moving to visit such important places in Labour history.
As Andrew said on his Facebook page, "It's great to return home and be reminded of our Party's history and legacy."
First photograph: Blackball, West Coast. Whites Aviation Ltd :Photographs. Ref: WA-28443-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22907279