The design behind the Paparoa Track had at its heart, the delivery of a positive economic impact for the local communities. One such community is Blackball, settled into the Paparoa range and accessed off the highway between Greymouth and Reefton. The town has suffered the boom and bust that is part of the coast, tempered by the tragedies that go with the territory particularly mining underground. Rising above the tragedy of the Pike mine collapse, the town is the gateway to the new track and with its construction it attracted two of the locals Pat Kennedy and Jane Wells who had already contributed to the personality of the township. We meet with Jane and Pat when it became evident that they were developing new accommodation and dining options for the town, with Blackball’s Inn.
Tell us about your background with Blackball?
Pat is a true Blackballite and has lived here all his life except for a 10 year break in his twenties, and another decade up Nelson way, until November 2018. He did his butchery apprenticeship at the local butchery his father had purchased in 1951. With the population decline it became harder to sustain the shop so Pat bought the general store opposite hoping to get residents to shop locally. But the supermarkets of Greymouth won out and he sold his shop and went off to work elsewhere. Then he started experimenting with salami making, hanging them from the Stonehouse ceiling to cure. With so many callers wanting his salamis, he eventually bought the original butcher’s shop back with his son in law – Blackball Salami began in 1992 and Pat sold the business 10 years later. He’s always been a community man. He was fire chief for many years and has served on various committees and was a councillor in the Grey County Council.
Jane had a brief stint in Blackball in the seventies and returned at the beginning of 1982 purchasing the store from Pat (she didn’t read the fine print and didn’t realise that Pat came with the building!) Being confined however didn’t suit Jane and she sold the shop after a year and returned to teaching – this time at Tai Poutini Polytechnic until she and Linda Osborne became owners of Formerly the Blackball Hilton in 1994. Jane bought Linda out in 2000 and sold the business in 2008.
What bought you back to town having previously departed?
Late in 2008 we moved firstly to Motueka, and then to the Moutere Valley. I published ‘Blackball- our place revisited ‘in 2018 and that re-ignited my enthusiasm for Blackball was reincarnated. By October that year we had sold our Moutere home and returned to Emma’s cottage in Blackball. After buying the old Club Hotel, we extensively renovated and renamed it the Blackball Inn. We opened for business in September 2019.
The Blackball’s Inn opened last year to provide accommodation and hospitality for walkers and bikes on the Trail. What options do you have for those overnighting in town?
We have four rooms – two king beds (both can be converted to twin rooms), a twin, and a 5 bed bunk room – all rooms include a continental breakfast and shared facilities. Also available is Emma’s Cottage, two double rooms and a twin room. Our car park, with four powered sites, is adjacent to the hotel for those that arrive with Campervans. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available, with early breakfasts no problems for those connecting to shuttles. Packed lunches available on demand.
There are some nice walks and points of interest within the village – The water race track meanders above the Blackball Creek following the historic water race and the Kingstop walk gives views of the town and valley from its highest point. Both tracks are undeveloped and sturdy footwear is needed.
How is the town handling the influx of visitors and whats happening to development in the town?
The track’s stop/start openings mean the town hasn’t yet really experienced a great visitor influx. Those who have stayed in town have been warmly welcomed. Food is available at Blackball’s Inn, Formerly The Blackball Hilton and Currently Oddfellows. Colin and Sheryn Luff’s, Kereru Crafts opens on demand at present. Community Led Development is funding Blackball projects with a welcome sign, picnic tables and the historic chimney’s restoration first up but many other projects are in the pipeline.