We are facing interesting dilemmas in Blackball at the moment as the Paparoa Great Walk begins to be built; dilemmas which come under the general heading: community development and what the concept means and how it takes place, for Blackball will be one gateway to the track.

Realising this, the Council and Government via its agencies have become busy wooing us, for we are suddenly visible to them and our performance becomes part of the tourist dollar. Tourist infrastructure is the buzz concept, which translates most often into toileting and parking facilities which enable tourists to walk the walk in comfort. For Government and Council, it is all part of the GDP, bringing in the tourist dollar and so on. It requires a tidying up of the town and a new direction.

But the building of the infrastructure is ideologically driven. The Council have applied to the government for funding for a toilet and a carpark. Here are the figures:
Foundations-prep and construction        10000
Foundations- engineered                            5500
Toilet unit                                                   134000
Electrical power connection                     10000
Services- water, sewer, stormwater         5000
Paving footpaths                                         10000
TOTAL (without fees):                              174500

But there are Fees (consents and engineering for toilets and carpark)
totalling 31,891 and Preliminaries and General (establishment and
disestablishment and traffic control)  23804.
So, divide in half the Fees and General that’s another 27847; so cost of
toilet is 202347.

The carpark will cost 154090 (plus 27847) = 181937.
The council are applying to the government for 399,286 minus their 100000 seeding money.

At the museum we are used to doing things cheaply and were astonished that a toilet should be worth twice as much as the average Blackball house. We had already costed out a toilet based on a single men’s hut design. Cost: $16000.  What is going on here?

Well, it’s how you think about things and how you do things. The council will drop the toilet and the carpark ‘from the sky’, impose them over the top of the existing community, an act of colonisation. They call this community development, but it is much closer to the work of missionaries with 19th century Maori. And local leaders, like local leaders back then, are being enticed into ‘partnership’.

Community development without having control of the budget is a mystification. What could we really do with $400,000? How could it be spent on community infrastructure required to service the track? Well, we could build two new toilets and refurbish existing toilets for 60000; use 100000 to establish a café run by a community co-operative; use 200000 to buy a house and establish a visitor centre and small camping ground, also run by a co-operative?

Instead of a fenced car park with security lights etc, people with the space could offer a park in their backyard, charging ten dollars a night, bringing in a little extra cash to the household budget. This would also lead to offering a cup of tea, having a conversation and so on. The visitor begins to be offered manaakitanga and healthy relations form. rather than ones of alienation.

This would be real community development, rather than the parody currently taking place. And behind the parody is an ideological purging of the collectivist, socialist tradition of the village, to be replaced by the small business opportunism that is at the heart of the tourist industry.