So, you may be wondering what is happening with Lyttel Piko these days. Many of you will have heard that due to the challenges faced over the last year by our sister shop in town, we here in Lyttelton were faced with the possibility of closure. In response, we have decided to create a Co-op in which you, the community have an opportunity to own the business. So here’s what we’ve come up with to date:
The Harbour Co-op Limited is being registered and is undergoing the last legal touches to become official – a much bigger task than originally expected – with a constitution written from scratch and a detailed financial prospectus – we are now far more familiar with the Company’s Act, the Co-operative Companies Act and the Securities Act than we ever anticipated. It will, to our knowledge, be the only consumer owned grocery store in the country. But what’s more is that we are planning a Multi-stakeholder Co-op – which is an exciting evolution of more traditional forms of co-ops and has been gaining in popularity worldwide. What this model will do is provide a method of ownership for the major stakeholders in the business. Separate share classes have been set aside for not only household consumers, but institutional purchasers (businesses/organisations), producers, and employees. By doing this we are providing a method of ownership that will appropriately reflect the unique interests and involvement of these different groups. The reason being – when everyone sits down at the table we can find solutions that work for everyone. The elected board will reflect these share classes proportional to their relative stake in the business and balance will be achieved by not allowing any one class to hold an absolute majority. But most importantly – everyone who is a transacting member of the Co-op will have a voice.
Becoming a Household Member
We are still waiting on official approval from the Companies Office and Financial Markets Authority before we can begin selling shares, but a membership enrolment form will be available shortly which will outline all of the nitty gritty details. In the meantime please explore our website to find out more – www.harbourcoop.co.nz. Our goal is to have at least 150 members by the end of March, thus meeting the purchase deadline we have with the Te Whanau Trust (the legal entity of Piko Wholefoods) and at which time the Harbour Co-op will begin trading and the shop will be able to stay in our community. A one-time ownership share costs $365 per household. No other financial contribution is required, other than your continued patronage at the shop – the more you transact, the greater your reward. Your level of involvement will be as much as you wish it to be. Your time is valuable to the Co-op, but not compulsory. There will be opportunities for a wide range of contributions – through quarterly working bees, periodic meetings of small task groups, or regularly scheduled or flexible hours working in the shop – you can give something more than just money to the Co-op. If you are short on time, there will also be the opportunity to purchase Supporting Shares which will help to generate working capital for the shop.
What this model achieves is the means to secure local resilience for the future by supporting and eliciting local production. Having a producer share class means that the Co-op can identify current demands and facilitate supply through small local growers who might otherwise struggle with daunting elements such as processing, distribution and marketing. If there are crops that can be grown here or things that we can make here and we as a community feel that they would increase our ‘social capital’ – by using our collective resources, we can find a way to grow or make them – providing for a robust local economy.
One of the key benefits of ownership in the Harbour Co-op will be access to these ‘Co-op produced’ goods at a discounted rate, along with other select discounted items - mainly focusing on local and bulk goods. But if you are thinking of investing in the Co-op solely as a way to save or even make money then you may need to reconsider. This investment is in our community, our health, and our long term resilience. Sure, if the Co-op makes a profit – there is an option to have some of the revenue paid back to the shareholders as dividends (by definition of a Co-op this is calculated by level of transaction, rather than amount of shares as in traditional corporations), but if we’re able to take those small individual sums and make big investments for the future - perhaps a wind farm, or flour mill, or oil press… then the dividends may be much more profound.
We are looking to plug the holes that drain our community of wealth, be it financial or physical. We are dreaming of an entity that can provide for the legal and transparent exchange of vital human goods and services that will help shield our community from potential global calamities ahead – a complete and thriving local economy with trading governed by goodwill rather than greed. We strive to implement a legitimate complementary currency system that will help close the loop of wealth loss. Framed in the context of a Harbour-wide Loyalty Point system – participating businesses and individuals will be able to trade in our own unique currency which circulates locally and cannot be drained by outside interests.
We are looking to invest in the knowledge and skills of our community, so that we can better provide for ourselves. There will be on-going workshops and seminars which will empower our members to become more resilient in their own lives – providing practical ways to enhance the wellbeing of ourselves and our families. We will learn how to grow and prepare everything which we require for robust health and vitality.
Thanks to those who are making it happen…
For the last six weeks a group of incredibly dedicated and talented folks have been meeting weekly and burning the midnight oil to make it all happen. Many thanks to the committee and especially Heather Lander– who must now be New Zealand’s leading self-taught legal authority on consumer co-ops as well as having put together our website in a matter of days. A lot of time has been gifted to this project over the last couple of months and I would like to extend my personal gratitude to all of those who have given so much of themselves to make sure that the little shop that my partner Judith and I started four and a half years ago will stay in Lyttelton and will continue to grow and serve the community that we love.
Together we can do things that we could not possibly do separately. It will have to start with generosity - a true feeling of ‘us’, and an understanding of what it means when we come together and look after each other. We welcome anyone who shares in this vision to help us make it a reality.
What can you do now?
- Visit the Harbour Co-op website, www.harbourcoop.co.nz to find out more.
- Pre-register at the Harbour Co-op website, to help give us a better idea of how many people are planning to join.
- Follow us on Twitter, twitter.com/harbourcoop, for quick updates on our progress.
- Like us on Facebook, facebook.com/harbourcoop, and let your Facebook friends know about us.
- Invite other people who may be interested in the Co-op to sign-up to our email updates, on the Harbour Co-op website.