Last week I watched a piece on the news about potential job losses in Westport as the returns from mining decline. It made me think of what Patea, and other Freezing Works towns, have been through in the past.
Staff were looking at these protest signs the other day and they brought back strong memories for me. I grew up in Patea and, as I have mentioned before, Dad was a grocer so our fortunes were linked to those of the Freezing Works. Many of my friend’s parents earned their living at the Works, and some of the people I went to school with expected to spend their lives working there also.
Dad was nearing retirement when the Works closed so it was a very difficult time for him. By then I was living in Wellington, in my first ‘proper’ job and newly engaged, but I spoke to Mum very regularly to see how things were going. I remember her talking about the protests and about how feelings were running very high.
When the Works did close some people moved away, a few left and took their house with them, some opened business ventures with their redundancy money and others found work or were unemployed. Thirty or so years on, Patea remains – testament to the strength of small communities such as ours all over New Zealand. I hope Westport can find its inner strength and ride out the current storm.