Fun way to raise serious message

Vana Tala from team Wahine Hula
Vana Tala from team Wahine Hula

Feather boas, rainbow mohawks and Hawaiian leis brightened New Plymouth's main street yesterday to help raise awareness of violence against women.

Twenty-five teams of four contested the White Ribbon Relay, in which competitors sprinted back and forth, completed such tasks as wrapping themselves in toilet paper and moved balloons without popping them.

The event was the first of its kind, although last year Taranaki Safe Families Trust organised a street march.

Organiser Denise Loveridge said this year's event was a better way to engage the community than a street march.

"It's much more user-friendly. It's a really strong message but people are having fun."

Organiser Lee Haskell said they had expected 10 to 15 teams but were thrilled when 24 entered.

"We've been very well supported and it's brought in a whole different audience. We will definitely run it again next year."

She said the flour bombs and water guns were not what they had expected but the enthusiasm was great just the same.

The New Plymouth Fire Service team won first prize of four Sunday tickets to Womad.

The best-dressed team, the Fairy Godmothers from Taranaki Youth Service, received dinner vouchers for Bach on Breakwater, and other prizes were pulled out of a hat.

Plunket team's Leigh Morrice said the event aroused people's curiosity. "It gets more people looking to see what's happening."

It was encouraging to see so many standing by the message that violence against women was unacceptable, she said.

Edwin Wiremu and Ihaka Carr, of the Taranaki chapter of the Native Sons MC, were also showing their support at the event.

"We've been hosting the White Ribbon Riders and giving them feeds while they're in Taranaki." The White Ribbon Ride is a nationwide motorcycle tour pushing for an end to violence against women which came through New Plymouth on Wednesday.

The Native Sons is a motorcycle club strongly opposed to family violence, violence against women and children, and the drug methamphetamine.

"We want to change the perception of motorbike gangs - we're all about family and integrity," Mr Carr said.

Taranaki Daily News