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Series 12, Episode 1 The Ol' Mexican Spinach 31 Oct 14 00:20:15

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Hyundai Country Calendar

TV ONE

Episode 22: A Wild Card


A Wild Card

This week's Country Calendar profiles Canterbury's Roger Beattie, who is an intriguing mix of conservationist and businessman.

He's passionate about endangered species, but his methods may raise a few eyebrows.

For years he has been breeding a rare species of weka on land he owns near Tai Tapu and on Banks Peninsula.  He wants to see them multiply - but his long term goal is to harvest the birds commercially and make them available for the nation's dinner plates.

Beattie bought his Buff Weka from the Chatham Islands, where they flourish, back to their original home on the mainland, where they died out 100 years ago. 

For many years he lived on the Chathams, where it's legal to hunt the birds, and noticed that they were always the first thing to disappear off the plate at social functions. 

He says they taste delicious.  He'd like to make them available as a gourmet treat on the mainland, too - but by farming, rather than hunting them.

To Beattie, conservation and exploitation of a resource can go hand-in-hand.  As long as there's money to be made from breeding weka, they'll never die out, he says.

"Having a passion for a species is not always enough to save them," he says.  "But combining a business around that passion will ensure success - because when the passion runs out there'll be another incentive to keep going."

Roger Beattie likes to think out side the square.  There's not much that gets in his way, and his successes haven't always come easily.  He's had many battles and set backs over the years, mostly with bureaucracy.

But gritty will power and sheer determination has seen him stand by his dream of combining conservation and his entrepreneurial flair.

He's also rescued a flock of wild Pitt Island sheep from near extinction and returned them to the mainland.  As with the Weka, his plan involves selling them as a gourmet food product.
But weka and wild sheep are just two of the many projects Roger Beattie is involved with.

He also harvests sea kelp from Akaroa harbour, and along with his wife Nikki has created a profitable business selling the dried product as a healthy and nutritioius food seasoning.
Beattie has an unusual knack of identifying unique opportunities and then applying branding and marketing skills to make his ideas work.

"You can have the best product in the world, but if you don't have good branding or marketing in place it will utterly fail," he says.

"Good marketing is about selling a story and I have a wonderfully romantic story to tell about my wild Pitt Island sheep. 

"It's the branding and marketing of that story which will sell the sheep to the world's top restaurants where people are prepared to pay a lot of money for something exceptional."

Other sites to view:
* For info on the Beatties' kelp pepper, www.kelppepper.com 
* For information about the genetic possibilities of Pitt Island sheep, click here 
* For a description of the Buff Weka, www.nzbirds.com/birds/weka.html


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