In 1908, conditions at the Blackball mine were dangerous, devious and deadly. With support from the local Socialist party’s “Wildmen” and the newly-created minERS union, the Blackball coal miners were involved in the famous, illegal and victorious lunchtime strike, haulting work for 11 weeks until breaks were extended from 15 minutes to 30. Their success led to further labor strikes, the formation of a national trade union movement and a period of national workers’ militancy and labor organizing the Socialist fervor was tampered down in its infancy by an employer / state backlash against labor along with the onset of World War One.
From the ruins emerged the New Zealand Labour party which took power in 1935 in partnership with the Maori Ratana Party ten years after the headquarters of the Communist Party of New Zealand moved to Blackball from Wellington. Together, Labour and Ratana introduced infrastructure for social democracy in New Zealand, including a welfare system, public health and education system and public radio. After a nine-year governmental run by the right wing National Party, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern—elected Oct. 2017—serves as the country’s 40th prime minister.