E Tū Whānau Kahukura are the people who inspire change in whānau and communities, including iwi leaders, rangatahi, strong wāhine and many others.

E Tū Whānau Kahukura 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.

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.

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.”

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