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Fiordland Wapiti Foundation typically would remove up to 1000 animals during the cull, and this year partnered with Game Animal Council and the Department of Conservation (Doc) for the initiative.
Fiordland Wapiti Foundation president Roy Sloan said that, weather permitting, by the end of July 600 deer from Fiordland National Park would be removed for processing into 18,000 1kg wild venison mince packets.
"These are being distributed by a charitable supply chain distributor to foodbanks throughout the country. This will feed thousands of New Zealand families in need."
Export markets have been affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Game Animal Council general manager Tim Gale said with the loss of venison markets, it would assist in keeping meat processing staff employed as well as help local helicopter operators while providing protein to Kiwi families in need.
"Managing the impacts that deer have on Fiordland is a win-win for both recreation and conservation."
The project is jointly funded by the Department of Conservation and the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation with the Game Animal Council administering the programme.
Doc Chief of Governance Mervyn English said it was a great example of organisations working together to achieve an outcome with many 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."
Safari Club International (NZ), New Zealand Deerstalkers Association, Central North Island Sika Foundation, Tahr Foundation and NZ Hunter Magazine will help with transportation and promotion, he said.
“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.
“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,” he said.
The project could potentially be expanded to other parts of the country.
• The recipes are available at: http://www.fwf.net.nz/fiordland-wapiti-area-venison-project/