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Scott Kara: Happy Feet's cute but he won't save our kids

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Emperor penguin Happy Feet underwent several operations at Wellington Zoo to remove sticks and sand from his stomach. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Emperor penguin Happy Feet underwent several operations at Wellington Zoo to remove sticks and sand from his stomach. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It amazes me that so much money and so many resources can go into saving one solitary wild bird.

So what if Happy Feet is only the second emperor penguin to make it to our shores? What about this for a more incredible - and shocking - statistic: every five weeks in New Zealand a child is killed by a family member.

So instead of the penguin getting the cash, what about more funding for preventing cases like the death of five-year-old Napier girl Sahara? Just this week Kerry Ratana - the partner of Sahara's mum - pleaded guilty to her manslaughter.

Then there's the death of baby Serenity in Ngaruawahia, which is as yet unsolved. Oh, and not forgetting the sordid Kahui case that just goes on and on. Those poor wee twins.

With a shame list like that, surely more money is needed to stop the cycle of family violence and killing. But no, we must save Happy Feet.

I'm not saying let the poor little fella find his own way back to Antarctica. I'm all for animal rights and saving the little critters. Of all the charities I've thrown a few coins at over the years it's the SPCA who I've given the most to. And my little girl Mia loves Happy Feet the movie. She loves penguins full stop.

But he's a bird. What about the kids?

A few months ago there was a story about a lovely, courageous little three-year-old girl called Peta who had contracted meningococcal disease. She had several operations to have her legs and some of her fingers amputated. But her parents couldn't afford to pay for any further procedures.

Peta wasn't eligible for state-funded healthcare because, while she was born in Auckland, her parents were not New Zealand citizens and didn't hold residency. So she couldn't get a badly needed operation to separate her remaining fingers and she wasn't even entitled to a wheelchair (although offers of wheelchairs and financial support came flooding in from the public following the story).

But then there's Happy Feet, who gets four operations and pampering at Wellington Zoo. They were even thinking about flying him back to Antarctica so he didn't have to swim.

The priorities just seem wrong.

The story of New Zealand's Happy Feet might make a good animated blockbuster one day, which, I guess, might put a smile on some kids' faces.

But it won't save some of these kids' lives.

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