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Blackball, West Coast, New Zealand

From militant miners to Salami sausages


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Blackball’s history is colourful and varied.

Blackball was founded in 1864 as a base for transient gold seekers, although the really big gold field of the area was a little further up the Grey Valley at Moonlight.

Thirty years later however, prospectors had their sights set on coal. They were a revolutionary bunch renowned for the infamous ‘Cribtime Strike’. For years the Arbitration Court had refused to lengthen the coalmines’ lunch break from 15 minutes to half an hour. In 1908, seven workers went out and refused a command to return to their jobs. When the group was fired, fellow workers joined the strike. The management agreed to the longer break. The strike showed the rest of New Zealand that collective action was effective. As a result the Red Feds were established, and from them, the Federation of Labour and the New Zealand Labour Party evolved.

In its heyday, Blackball was populated by around 1200 people. When the mine closed in 1964, many left and the town was expected to slowly disappear, but today around 400 people call Blackball home with the popular watering hole ‘Formerly the Blackball Hilton’ hotel as a meeting place.

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The West Coast