The evolution of the coal mining community of Denniston
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This study concerns the birth of the coal industry and a new community in the Buller where the entrepeneurs and emigrants were faced with an untouched and rigorous environment. The location for Denniston was remote and hazardous. The coalfield was perched on a wind-swept plateau, 1,800 feet above sea-level, and connected with the outside world by an inclined railway. The development of unionism within that community is also examined for Denniston spawned a labour leader who organized the 'Coast and became an inaugaral member of the Maritime Council. The advent of the Seamens' Union has been researched, and there was clearly a need for a study of the origins of unionism among the coalminers in the Buller. Similarly, while much is known of J. A. Millar, John Lomas' important role in New Zealand labour history has yet received scant attention. The Denniston coalfield seemed to afford an excellent opportunity to examine the relative influence of British example and New Zealand experience in the development of New Zealand unionism. Related to the growth of unionism on Denniston is the nature of the overall effect of the coal industry on the Buller region. Coal was to provide a new staple for a local economy which was still living in the afterglow of the gold rushes. It could be expected however, that the established community of Westport would be ambivalent in its reaction to the arrival of the coalminers. Merchants and businessmen welcomed the additional revenue the coal industry promised but were fearful of the class tensions which would accompany the changes.