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Farmer wants native birds on the menu

Published: 8:44PM Monday February 01, 2010 Source: Close Up

A conservationist believes one way of saving New Zealand's native birds from extinction is to serve them in restaurants around the world.

Businessman Roger Beattie believes there is money in farming native birds such as kiwi, kereru or weka.

The Canterbury farmer told Close Up there is a need for a law change so farmers can breed rare native birds for both national and international dinner plates.

"(It would be the) absolute high end of the gourmet market," says Beattie.

He says New Zealand's conservation efforts are failing and need help, although the Department of Conservation disputes that.

Beattie has been breeding weka in captivity and says at one stage he had six pairs breeding simultaneously.

"We've got wonderfully unique birds here and one of the ways of saving some of them is to farm them ... No farm species throughout the history of mankind has ever died out," says Beattie.

Beattie describes weka as a bit like chicken and mutton. "It's tasty, it's moorish ... you've got to eat them while they're fat." But he says if you want to taste them, you have to go to the Chatham Islands where he lived and worked for 15 years. Eating weka is not allowed on the mainland.

And Beattie has a record on the Chathams in conservation, helping set up the black robin recovery programme.

The businessman also exports paua meat and paua pearls.

As a conservationist and an entrepreneur he says there is a significant business opportunity going begging.

"If you multiply the numbers that we know we can run per hectare ... we can gross $3,000 per hectare."

And Beattie sees nothing wrong with commercialising conservation. "All the food you currently eat is commercialised food unless you run your own garden."

He wants equal footing with the Department of Conservation to save endangered species and is critical of the organisation which allows him to bring weka back, but not earn a living off them.

However DOC spokesman John Cumberpatch says it is the department's mandate to protect native species and time will tell whether that extends to farming.

Beattie says that to get the numbers up, a farming mentality is needed rather than DOC's scarcity mentality. In the meantime, he's looking to a farm staple in the form of Pitt Island wild sheep.

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  • RedPenn said on 2010-09-08 @ 18:16 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Conservation is for the sake of conservinf - preserving - protecting the species as a whole, not individual animals. farming edible native birds is okay by me - as long as farmers also conribute a %age of their 'chicks' to DOC for release in the natural environment. I'd like to also see an open year-long season for hunting european ducks, geese and swans. These introduced birds are crowding our own natural waterfowl from their wetlands. Let's shoot and eat the nuisances!

  • masini said on 2010-02-01 @ 22:36 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Protecting birds is an indication the world. why they serve in restaurants. They are part of our lives. To protect.

  • Pacifier said on 2010-02-01 @ 22:33 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Isn't this story a bit silly? Surely they can be farmed and their numbers will rise, but isn't the real point of conservation the ability to reintroduce the species into the wild. You cannot introduce farmed animals into the wild because they won't survive 3 weeks.

  • Baton said on 2010-02-01 @ 22:28 NZDT: Report abusive post

    To strengthen his argument, Roger ought to draw parallels with the rare pig breeds association of NZ. They have long recognized that in order for their rare breeds such as the Berkshire, Duroc and Saddleback to survive, they need to be farmed to be bred to be eaten. It is the only way. Same for the weka. Substitute weka for sheep as an endangered species and you can see how ludicrous the DOC argument is. If anyone knows Roger, could you draw his attention to this.

  • rixatcrf said on 2010-02-01 @ 21:10 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Yup, Ive said the same thing with regards to kereru, We can buy mutton birds but nothing else. Why not breed em and fatten em up! kereru would make and excellent export for the high end market.