Kin­leith strike brought out of the dark

South Waikato News - - Community Cookbook - LUKE KIRKEBY

The Kin­leith Mill strike of 1992 was a tense time in the South Waikato as Trade Union mem­bers took ac­tion against the gov­ern­ment’s Em­ploy­ment Con­tracts Act which they saw as a threat to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing.

Of­fi­cial Union pho­tog­ra­pher Chris Wil­liams was front row and cen­tre through­out the three month long strike which in­volved the ma­jor­ity of mill work­ers.

Now 24 years later he is putting to­gether an ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing 40 of his best shots which will be dis­played at the South Waikato Sports and Events Cen­tre later this year.

While the pho­tos were ex­hib­ited shortly af­ter the strike and trav­elled the coun­try, Wil­liams said it was too fresh in peo­ple’s minds for them to fully ap­pre­ci­ate them so they have been left for­got­ten in his dark­room ever since.

Fast for­ward to 2016 a photo was re­cently shared on Face­book of him pro­mot­ing the event at the time and Wil­liams said he has been in­un­dated with in­quires.

‘‘It’s gen­er­ated a lot of healthy de­bates. The phone calls I have been get­ting,’’ he said.

He said the ex­hi­bi­tion would be in­sight­ful for younger gen­er­a­tions as well as re­flec­tive for those who lived through the strike.

‘‘It was deemed the last big strike. We had col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing and the Em­ploy­ment Con­tracts Act 1991 was then prime min­is­ter Jim Bol­ger’s way of try­ing to break all the Unions which was what brought it all about,’’ he said.

‘‘Pick­eters set up at the mill’s three gates and the whole mill was shut down apart from a few scabs (peo­ple who worked de­spite the strike) who tried to get through. It was quite a tense time, it re­ally was.’’

He said the ex­hi­bi­tion will fea­ture pho­tos show­ing the build up to the strike, dur­ing the strike, and when work­ers marched back onto the site at its con­clu­sion.

‘‘Be­cause I was a Union of­fi­cial I took my cam­era with me ev­ery­where and I have hun­dreds and hun­dreds of other neg­a­tives in my dark­room which have never been de­vel­oped,’’ he said.

‘‘There are some pho­tos of well known lo­cals in there and it is part of Toko­roa’s history which should be shared. This is Toko­roa and the history of our whanau.’’

He said deputy mayor Jenny Shat­tock had helped or­gan­ise the ex­hi­bi­tion venue which he thanked her for.

‘‘Her fa­ther was a union of­fi­cial so she has a con­nec­tion with it grow­ing up here and I can’t thank her enough for help­ing to get this back in the pub­lic eye,’’ he said.

Wil­liams said cam­eras would not be al­lowed in the ex­hi­bi­tion but he would be happy to talk to peo­ple if they wanted to buy prints. Dates for the ex­hi­bi­tion will be con­firmed shortly.

PHOTO: LUKE KIRKEBY/ FAIR­FAX NZ

Toko­roa pho­tog­ra­pher Chris Wil­liams is pre­par­ing to once again show­case his col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs from the 1992 Kin­leith Mill strike.

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