Regional | Environment

Te Tairāwhiti puts on a spread at inaugural food festival

Warning for Wild meat and seafood lovers: This story might cause you extreme cravings.

From hares to goat, to smoked venison, salmon and crayfish, a new food festival on the East Coast, Essence of Te Tairāwhiti, brings something a little different to the table while emphasising sustainability.

Tui Keenan, one of the demonstrators at the event, said, “We've got this beautiful food that we've all sourced and harvested ourselves so it's been quite a journey leading up to the event, and just myself passing the deer around today and saying here have some deer that I've harvested two weeks ago, it's just the satisfaction of sharing what I do and what I love doing with the people out there.”

Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan offered a solution for pests like goats that run rampant on the East Coast.

“Goats are a massive pest and we're having to work out a way to eradicate them in a way that's safe, and a lot of our farmers here are doing some awesome mahi, so I'm going to show what you can do with meat that is a pest out there on the whenua but which can be turned into a pretty good kai,” Allan said.


From local politicians, to hunters and gatherers and chefs, there were flavours for people from all walks of life.

“I think people are inspired today instead of going to the supermarket and getting their meat to come here and learn how to cut up wild game or wild animals but what surprised me the most was people being adventurous and trying hare, so we all see hare and rabbits running around so I think' Watch out, there's going to be more hare that's being eaten in our community',”  Tui Keenan said.

The inaugural event was hosted by Food Cartel, and featured a number of local growers, producers, and hunter-gatherers.

Keelan Poi said, “It's a resource here that whānau have access to but a lot of whānau don't that think they have the skills or they still have a bit of learning to do in terms of gathering it so to showcase different whānau here makes it an achievable goal for them," Keelan Poi said. "It's awesome to get all of us together and have a bit of a crack at it aye.”

The festival was a platform for knowledge sharing around food preparation. A crowd favourite were the Madsen brothers who run Smokey Bros based in Mōrere.

Smoke and fire

Rayner Madsen said, “Smoking meat, cooking on fires is the original way of cooking a piece of meat in my opinion, try and take it back to the caveman days and it makes a piece better than you can in a frying pan that's for sure, so keep it natural keep it smoky.”

Dane Madsen concurred, “Can't really beat the effect that a fire has on a group of people, it's got that unifying effect on a crowd, same as a feed does, so it's always been the joy of our job to see how a fire and feed brings people together and the vibes that it spreads out there just to do what we do for a living.”

For locals to visitors, everyone had a chance to sample some of the best food in the region.

Visiting the region as a connoisseur at the event, Māori educationalist Chris Winitana said, “Food, it's primary to humans, so I say your dressings your flavours, bring them. If you come to us in Tūwharetoa it's different food. Cross to my other side to Tūhoe it's different again. That's the great thing about this, it's unique food. The energy is delicious, flavoursome, the sweetness of people coming together.

If food is the highlight of hospitality and care, this event allows that principle to be taken to new heights.