Piko Wholefoods Co-operative

Piko Wholefoods Co-operative began trading in March 1979 in a small shop at 225 Kilmore Street. In February 1981 Piko moved to 229 Kilmore Street. The shop aimed to place people before profit.

One of the reasons for starting Piko was to provide an outlet for organically grown produce -vegetables, grains, beans, dried fruits, nuts, herbs and spices. Hans, the co-operative’s full-time worker at the time, grew most of the vegetables on empty sections in the Avon Loop area.

Piko was committed to bulk purchases and simple, self-packaging to keep prices down. The shop provided window space for community notices. By operating collectively, the co-operative provided flexible working hours, part-time work and an interesting alternative to the boss-worker relationship. Knowledge of tasks was to be shared so that all members understood the different functions and were given the opportunity to learn new skills.

These are still the ideals behind the functioning of Piko. Those of us who work at Piko today, believe we have retained a little utopia on the days when the going is good, e.g. systems are buzzing, people feel like they are their own bosses and fun is high on the agenda. We are certainly proud that while some updating of systems has been necessary to accommodate expertise and efficiency in a much busier shop, the original values are still ‘in’ and working well.

Piko Wholefoods and Crafts Co-operative, as it was known in the beginning, has always taken a political stand. Not party political but political for social change. When Piko functioned next door as a dairy, before buying the present building, it was no ordinary dairy. Cigarettes were sold, but one cent on every packet went to the HEART Foundation. On Rothmans cigarettes (South African) an extra cent went to H.A.R.T. (Halt All Racist Tours). This was in the early eighties and Piko was taking a stand on apartheid. Piko people also took an active concern in other issues such as town planning. Motorway widening was a cause for concern in the eighties when the threat of demolition was hanging over the building because of the St. Albans motorway plan.

As numbers and activities grew the Piko group formed Te Whanau Trust (‘the family’ in Maori) to be an umbrella structure, to co-ordinate it’s activities in the Northeast inner city of Christchurch. This trust was able to look after the political side of things so that the Piko meetings could focus on the business side without feeling overwhelmed.

The Otakaro Land Trust was established (Otakaro means ‘the place of play’) to deal with all transactions concerning land. It was set up as a common ownership organisation with aims to provide accommodation and property to further the wider objective of Te Whanau Trust. The present Piko building was bought in 1980 and late in 1978 a large site in Peterborough Street was bought by the land trust. The Peterborough Street Community Living Project was founded with the aim of enabling people to live, work and grow some of their food on the site. It still thrives as a community with many of its original ideals.

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