On August 17, 900kg of frozen venison was delivered to the Maniapoto Māori Trust Board offices in Te Kūiti thanks to the Te Awamutu Deerstalkers association.

The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation have an agreement with the Department of Conservation to manage the Wapiti herd in Fiordland.

Part of that is management plan is to remove around 1100 animals a year from the area; this is achieved using recreational hunters and commercial helicopter hunters.

That wasn't achievable this year because of Covid-19 as hunters weren't able to hunt during the lockdown period but DoC still wanted the animals removed.

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"The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation with the assistance of the Game Animal Council put choppers in there and shot the animals but instead of leaving them to rot on the hills, they recovered every animal that they could and put them through processing plants, which provided 20 plus people jobs down there - then the meat was made available for charities to give to Kiwi families in need," said Te Awamutu Deerstalkers association president John Gunn.

"The Fiordland Wapiti Foundation paid for all of that and the deerstalkers have paid to get the meat transported to where it's being distributed."

At the Te Awamutu Deerstalkers committee meeting, a number of the members had seen this initiative and were very keen to help out and pay for the haulage as long as the meat all went to people in need.

"The committee all agreed so we had approval for the $450 and that meant we could get the meat up to our immediate area," said John.

From the Maniapoto Māori Trust the venison was distributed to a number of food banks including Journey Church, King Country Community Āwhina Trust, Maketu Marae Foodbank, Kainga Aroha Community House and the Ōtorohanga Support House Whare Awhina, which is the umbrella for the Ōtorohanga Support House Whare Awhina Community Foodbank.

The areas covered are Cambridge, Kāwhia, Ōtorohanga, Te Awamutu and Te Kūiti.
One pack is equivalent to 1kg which will feed a family of four, potentially feeding around 3600 people.

"It's a reasonably significant amount of meat and that was my concern. When I thought we'll see if we can do this, actually finding someone who could distribute it and if not distribute it then at least store it as it would be frozen was the main concern," said John.

Deb Hill, the manager of the Ōtorohanga Support House Whare Awhina, was very helpful in contacting the local food banks and helping to get the wheels in motion, which John is very appreciative of.

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"We are very grateful for this initiative, many thanks to the Deer Stalkers Association representative John Gunn who made contact with me. He has organised the logistics of transportation. This will help the local foodbanks to help provide for our vulnerable families," said Deb.

The Te Awamutu Deerstalkers want to look after the local people as much as they can.

"We thought we've got an opportunity here, hopefully we can get the meet up here and help some people out," said John.

"Covid-19 sort of buggered a lot of people this year and there are people out there that do it tough all the time - but I think this year it's probably worse.

"There is a perception that hunters are just a bunch of red necks that shoot everything that moves. We actually have a community spirit as well as an environmental conscience.

"We are also involved in running a trap line in the Pureora Forest Park which has seen over 3000 rats removed from the bush. The reward for this is now seeing Whio (Blue Duck) back on the river we trap alongside.

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"It was great to be able help the community."

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