Fiordland deer hunters deliver wild venison to families in need

Free-range venison is on offer for families in need thanks to a partnership between Fiordland deer hunters and the Department of Conservation (DoC).

The collapse of export markets in the wake of COVID-19 saw hunters work together to share wild meat from the annual deer cull.

The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation manages 175,000 hectares of Fiordland National Park, under an agreement with DoC. That ensures the deer population is kept to a level which doesn't damage the area's flora and fauna.

But a crash in the price of wild venison and the arrival of COVID-19 threatened to waste hundreds of animals.

"Wouldn't it be great if rather than leave it to waste we could recover it and put the venison where it's needed for people who are having a bit of a tough time at the moment," says Roy Sloan, of the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation.

The annual deer cull removes about 1000 animals a year from Fiordland National Park. "About 18 tonne - 18,000 1kg packs of venison mince from the clean, green mountains of Fiordland. So you couldn't get much healthier than that," says Sloan.

Salvation Army Community Ministries co-ordinator Brenda King says receiving the meat was a real help.

"It was quite a surprise to get a phone call to say they had, actually I think the words were tonnes of venison to give away."

Many families in need don't get a lot of meat in their diets.

For Hornby Community Ministries in Christchurch, the chance to include fresh lean protein in their clients' diets is a real positive.

"[It's] absolutely wonderful - we don't often have fresh meat so to get the venison, and because it's venison and so healthy, it's just lovely," says Gill Waugh from Hornby Community Ministries.

A few celebrity chefs have even designed some simple and tasty recipes, to help families make the most out of the bonus servings.