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Little voyager has a giant message

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014
kuaka
Fairfax NZ
Southlanders are being encouraged to get behind the kuaka, also known as the bar-tailed godwit, to help curb high rates of family violence in New Zealand.

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Southlanders are being asked to get behind a high-flying estuary bird to help combat family violence.

The kuaka, also known as bar-tailed godwit, undertakes one of the longest known migrations, flying from the Arctic to New Zealand in September before returning north in March and April.

The bird is being used as the emblem of the Kuaka Project, a nationwide initiative through the Ministry of Social Development E Tu Whanau (Stand up family) programme, to help address high levels of family violence in New Zealand.

Kuaka Project co-ordinator Hannah Bodger Kearns said that the bird, while quite ordinary in appearance, made an extraordinary migration, travelling tens of thousands of kilometres every year.

Project organisers hoped to use the bird's epic journey to inspire ordinary Southlanders with their own journeys, raising nurturing, non-violent families, she said.

"Although bringing up a family is a longhaul proposition, even an ordinary-looking creature can perform extraordinary feats."

The annual arrival of the kuaka had been celebrated by iwi in the past, and one of the project's aims was to rekindle these celebrations, Ms Bodger Kearns said.

Organisers were encouraging Southland community groups to plan positive public events around different stages of the kuaka migration, linking them to family support and anti-violence messages.

The Kuaka Project would provide resources for stopping violence and information for the events, she said.

Police are called daily to about 200 domestic violence incidents nationwide - about one every seven minutes.

In 2012, police investigated nearly 90,000 family violence incidents.

Brent Kingsland, of Invercargill Police, could not be contacted for comment yesterday

Further information about the Kuaka Project can be found at www.facebook.com/HeKuaka.

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