A partnership between the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation, Game Animal Council, and Department of Conservation (DOC) will see 18,000kg of free-range wild Fiordland venison provided to New Zealand foodbanks and families in need.
Each year, the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation, working with DOC, conducts a deer cull in Fiordland National Park removing up to 1000 animals.
“Weather permitting, by the end of next month, we will have removed 600 deer from Fiordland National Park for processing into 18,000 1kg wild venison mince packets,” said Roy Sloan, Fiordland Wapiti Foundation president.
These packs are distributed by a charitable supply chain distributor to food banks throughout the country, which will feed thousands of New Zealand families in need.
With the venison industry hit hard by global hospitality shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tim Gale, Game Animal Council general manager, says the programme will assist with keeping meat-processing staff employed and also help local helicopter operators while providing food to Kiwi families in need.
He added that managing the impacts that deer have on Fiordland is a “win-win for both recreation and conservation.”
The project is jointly funded by DOC and the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation with the Game Animal Council administering the programme.
DOC chief of governance Mervyn English says this is a great example of organisations working together to achieve an outcome with multiple benefits.
“Getting this project going was only possible because of the collaboration between the Game Animal Council, Fiordland Wapiti Foundation, DOC, and Fare Game Meat Processors,” English said.
Organisations such as Safari Club International (NZ), New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, Central North Island Sika Foundation, and Tahr Foundation have come on-board to help with transportation and promotion.
“Celebrity food writer Nadia Lim, leading Christchurch chef Richard Hingston, and Ngāi Tahu have also designed some simple and tasty recipes to help inspire the recipient families to make the most out of the venison,” said Gale.
DOC and the Game Animal Council are also starting to look at working with the recreational and commercial hunting sectors in other parts of the country to explore the possibility of expanding the programme to other parts of New Zealand.
“This is a win-win for conservationists, hunters, our foodbanks, and the public in general. Kiwis just like the idea of working together to help each other out,” said English.
More than 3500 families have already benefitted from the project with mince packets distributed to charities and food banks, including the Southland Salvation Army, Kona Kai, and Southland Food Bank. Meat from the pilot project has also been delivered to food banks within Westland, Otago, and Christchurch.
Another 15,000 families will benefit once the remaining 500 deer are recovered and processed, with most of the meat to be distributed throughout the main centres in the North Island.