When we investigated setting up our shuttle services for the Paparoa Track, we meet Paul Maunder and were introduced to the Blackball Co-operative. After discussing each others needs it became clear that by partnering with the Co-op and its drivers, we were better able to engage with the community in a different way. Paparoa Shuttles have provided the infrastructure – van and bike trailer – and the Co-op has provided the local drivers who have deep local knowledge and stories. Bookings are handled initially by Paparoa Shuttles with work rosters developed with Paul Maunder who leads the Co-op.
The on-again/off-again nature of the Paparoa Track this season was disruptive, but the first three weeks of March provided an insight into just what this track is going to look like once we reopen for the 20/21 season. We recently caught up with Paul Maunder, to ask him his insight on the first season…
What is the Blackball Co-op and what does it mean to the local community?
“The Blackball Co-op has been set up as a subsidiary of Te Puawai Co-operative Society whose mission is to incubate co-operatives as part of a transition economy strategy for the West Coast. Co-operatives are seen as able to continue the Coast’s traditional values of collectivism and solidarity.”
How is the Co-op working with the Paparoa Track?
“We were pleased to enter a partnership with Cycle Journeys and its subsidiary Paparoa Shuttles, with us providing a local grounding for the bigger company and Cycle Journeys providing the resilience of the larger organisation with a diverse portfolio. Given firstly the track opening delay and then the pandemic, the latter has been very important.”
“We provide shuttle and relocation services for the track; either shuttling people to and from the track or relocating their vehicle from usually the Smoke-ho carpark to Punakaiki. We operate as a co-op and divide the work according to availability and need.The initial aim is to provide top up for those on fixed incomes, although there is one member for whom this work is a main source of income.”
What do you think will be the biggest impact the Paparoa Track will have on Blackball?
“The biggest impact on Blackball will be a bolstering of the service industry located in the town as track users stay a night and day visitors increase in number. It may also bolster the level of events. At the same time we have to keep an eye on preserving the local culture, wary of such things as too many houses converting to AirBnB. But the initial experience is that at the numerical level the track is operating on, there is nothing to worry us at the moment.”
What has the disruption to the opening of the Track and then the early closure meant to the local community?
“The disruption has meant there is something of an anti-climax; luckily there were no big loan-requiring investments made, so accommodation providers look secure as long as there is some reasonable income this summer. The one month flurry of activity in March promises a busy time this summer as long as nothing else happens.”