Free wild food treats back for field days

23 Feb 2024, 9:42 AM

Free wild food treats from the Northland Regional Council will be back at the upcoming Northland Field Days after a hiatus post covid-19.

About 40 kilogrammes of wild venison will be used to create venison bruschetta with red onion jam and horopito creme fraiche and will be just one of this year’s giveaways available to visitors at the council’s marquee at the upcoming Thursday 29 February to Saturday 02 Dargaville event.

A joint creation by the NRC, NorthTec | Te Pūkenga Level 4 cookery students and their tutor Hughie Blues, the council expects to give away about 1200 portions of venison over the three days of field days from the council’s usual site - I1 and I2.

Council Kaipara constituency representative John Blackwell says over the years the council has transformed a variety of pest animals, plants and even insects into an array of edible treats all designed as a fun way to spark added public interest in its broader work at the Dargaville event."

Council was due to giveaway wallaby curry in 2021 but the event was cancelled due to Covid and again the following year." "Then due to Cyclone Gabrielle last year, we didn’t do our usual food giveaway."

He says the last time visitors to council’s stand got to enjoy a wild tasty treat was four years ago in 2020 when it gave away venison jerky with a watermelon salsa.

The venison for the giveaway has been sourced from Blenheim company Premium Game because there’s no local wild venison stock "and council’s obviously keen to see that remain the case!"

He says council has successfully collaborated with the hospitality students for field days over a number of years and he’s pleased the two organisations will be working together again this year.

That sentiment is shared by NorthTec | Te Pūkenga’s Lisette Buckle.

Ms Buckle, NorthTec | Te Pūkenga’s Pathway Manager- Service Industries, says the field days are a great opportunity for chef tutor, Hughie Blues and his Level 4 students to engage with the public and show off their culinary skills.

"With the prevalence of wild foods and alternative protein sources, this is a wonderful way to display diverse, tasty dishes whilst highlighting the issues pests pose for our native fauna and flora."

Councillor Blackwell says the NRC is keen to shine a spotlight on wild deer once again as council, along with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and hapū, is working on a project to eradicate wild deer from Northland, starting with the small population of sika deer in Russell Forest.

Sika deer were illegally released into the Russell Forest about 35 years ago and are hundreds of kilometres outside of their regulated feral range in the central North Island.

"Sika deer are more elusive and eat a wider range of plants than other deer species and pose an ongoing threat to Northland’s biodiversity."

Councillor Blackwell says staff involved in the project from both DOC and council will be on site over the three days to answer any questions and share more details about the Russell project and why deer are a problem in Northland.

He says council’s site is on a popular road at field days with other community groups and agencies nearby making it easy for the public to access information and have a chat about all things environmental.

"A key focus for field days this year is freshwater, with council staff available to chat to the public about the draft Freshwater Plan Change - which closes at the end of March."

A popular feature last year was a red-eared slider turtle which will be back again this year alongside some other unwanted species. With the threat of the freshwater gold clam and other invasive species, council’s Incursion Team will be on hand to show why these pests can cause such a problem. Alongside them will be council’s Biodiversity Team highlighting the positive fauna and flora that comes with good biosecurity.

"We will also have our usual pests and weeds staff on hand ready to help with advice on how to get rid of pesky possums and unwanted weeds."

The NRC’s Climate Action and Land Management Teams will be encouraging members of the public to get their game face on and play a NIWA-developed drought scenario game.

The family friendly interactive game aims to create discussion and draw upon decision making skills when imagining multiple futures with increased weather events and a changing climate.

Council Chair Geoff Crawford, Cr Blackwell and fellow councillors Jack Craw and Peter-Lucas Jones will be on site during the field days and look forward to catching up with those attending the event.

Two chefs in a kitchen.

Tutor Chef Hughie Blues and NorthTec Level 4 cookery student Bronwyn Joyce-McCallum prepare venison for the field days wild food giveaway.