E Tū Whānau Kahukura are the people who inspire change in whānau and communities.

They emerge naturally in whānau, hapū, iwi and communities as people who support, encourage and strengthen whānau by modelling values, behaviours and actions that are the positive ‘footprints’ that can be followed.


  • actively create environments in which whānau are strong, safe and prosperous
  • model the six E Tū Whānau values in their personal lives, as well as within their own whānau, marae and / or communities
  • provide leadership to the people and groups around them
  • recognise and support other leaders emerging across Aotearoa.

The importance of Kahukura – and their commitment to making a difference – is recognised and supported by E Tū Whānau.

A short animated explanation of the kahukura concept and its place within E Tū Whānau kaupapa

Where did the name “Kahukura” come from?

In 2011, a group of kaumātua at the Iwi Leaders’ Forum in Waitangi came up with the name “Kahukura” to describe the leaders of change within whānau, hapū and iwi.

The origin of the term lies in the story of the Kuaka (Bar-tailed Godwit). When they fly into Aotearoa for the summer, they arrive in a swirling mass. Within that mass are small groups that each have a leader whose role is to cleave the air and provide the initial lift for those in their flock who are following. That lead bird, the Kahukura, provides the impetus for movement and change – as they move, they gather their group around them and, in doing so, other leaders emerge.

A flock of kuaka in flight, led by a kahukura
Thanks to Dr Phil Battley, Massey University for this photo. It was taken in the Yalu Jiang National Nature Reserve in China, which is the main refuelling site for kuaka on migration north to Alaska. Phil says, “It was a brilliant day, out there on the mud. There were about 20,000 godwits streaming past as the tide came in.”

Ann Dysart E Tū Whānau Kahukura Award

Held for the first time in 2022, this Award is dedicated to Ann Dysart, the founding E Tū Whānau kahukura who passed away in January 2021. Ann championed kahukura as positive change-agents within their own communities.

The Ann Dysart E Tū Whānau Kahukura Award celebrates and honours her as the first E Tū Whānau kahukura. It is in her footsteps that kahukura, and those recognised as Award finalists, follow. The event celebrates all of their journeys.

In 2022, 11 finalists were recognised in the E Tū Whānau Ann Dysart Kahukura Award event:

Waitomo Papakāinga Development Society was named the E Tū Whānau Ann Dysart Kahukura Award 2022 winner.

Watch this video of highlights from the evening, or listen to Waka kuaka, a taonga pūoro piece which tells the story of kuaka.

The Kuaka Project

This is a collaborative community project inspired by E Tū Whānau and the notion of kahukura as a metaphor for whānau and community leaders.

The Kuaka Project Team aims to revive the practice of welcoming the return of the kuaka – a traditional ritual for many iwi in the past.

The extraordinary journey of this little bird and its family-focused behaviours provide an opportunity and theme around which whānau strengths and community leadership can be celebrated each year.

Visit He Kuaka website

Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre

Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, located an hour from Tāmaki Makaurau, offers excellent viewing of kuaka when they are in Aotearoa.

The Centre is a hub for information, education and research on kuaka and other shorebirds found in Aotearoa. It also tracks the seasonal migration of the kuaka on this Facebook page.

Two kuaka birds in flight, with the kahukura in the lead.
Kuaka in flight (Photo credit: Ian Southey, Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre)