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Community artists celebrate return of the godwits

September 24th, 2011
[by David Armstrong]

"If you're a godwit, obesity is good." So said one of the posters, repeated by Rev Gladys Taingahue in her short introduction and karakia at the official opening of the Welcome to the Godwit ceremony at Memorial Hall yesterday.

She was, or course, referring to the amount of extra fuel needed by the godwits to complete their ultra-marathon flight from Alaska to Motueka's sandspit, a flight which was completed by the first contingent of godwits late last week.

The weekend of celebrations kicked off yesterday with the ringing of bells and the short ceremony in the hall, attended by about 120 people, amid the artworks and other decorations mounted by the Motueka Arts Council. Other events are scheduled for today and tomorrow (details here).

Parklands School Whanau class led off with a beautiful waiata, watched also by the school's room 6, which played a big role in preparing for the celebrations. Then Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne welcomed the guests and audience. He spoke of how important the godwits are to Tasman's natural environment, and how important the sandspit is to the godwits.

He said that a few years ago when council was considering dog control bylaws he heard a talk by noted ornithologist David Melville about the godwits. "It made a tremendous impression on me and helped us think further about this part of our environment."

Officially opening the godwits festival was Hon Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Conservation, who noted that she had had to miss last year's celebration because the Christchurch earthquake (her electorate is near Christchurch) had just happened and she needed to be there. She said that Christchurch has its own godwits situation, in that in previous years the cathedral bells used to toll at the arrival of the migratory birds but that is no longer possible.

Kate said New Zealand is blessed with the number of volunteers working in conservation, and that the number of people taking part is growing rapidly of late.

Master of Ceremonies, David Ogilvie, replied that Motueka is sometimes considered the volunteer capital of New Zealand, given the number of people here working on environmental projects. And in this case, the sterling and inventive work by the Arts Council to come up with the idea of the godwits festival and to carry it through to such an impressive exhibition was thankfully recognised.

David also noted that it may be time for the powers that be to consider naming one or more geographic features after the godwits or their Maori equivalent, kuaka.

Arts Council chairperson Shirley Frater gave a little background to the festival, saying that when the idea was first mooted she played the "wet blanket" by demanding to know "where's the art in godwits?" However, the council have been able to show that by making an art event around the arrival of the godwits, rather than perhaps just another day of environmental protest and lectures, it has made a great community event and drawn in contributions from artists, photographers, sculptors and environmentalists.

Paul Bond and The Ukes of Hazzard rounded out the ceremony with the rendition of Paul's song to the godwits.

The montage display prepared by Rudolf Steiner School

Children made small godwits and crabs and placed them
in the "mudflats". The adults in the background
are watching a video presentation.

Parklands School Whanau class led off with a waiata


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