17 Nov 2023

E09: Don't Dream. It's Over.

From Deer Wars, 5:00 am on 17 November 2023

The era of live deer capture had an aura of glamour to it, much as ground hunting and aerial venison hunting had previously.

Man sitting outside of door of helicopter

Photo: Supplied by Paul Roy

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But the reality for those involved was much different. Families lost their fathers. Wives lost their husbands. Some such as pilot Dave Richardson carried lifelong injuries suffered in crashes.

"And I lay there and I thought, 'oh god, I've smashed my bloody machine'. And I thought, 'I'll just lie here for a bit and then I'll get up' and I went to get up. And there's no one at home to get up. I just couldn't move. And I thought, 'oh, god, I've broken my back'."

But the industry itself was about to crash in the most dramatic way when on the 26th of July 1995, then Finance Minister Roger Douglas introduced a standard deer price and a reversal of tax write offs to take effect immediately. The bill had an immediate and catastrophic impact on deer farmers and those holding onto deer while building up a herd for the future. Predictably, the Queen Street farmers vanished overnight and their money with them.

Man using shotgun outside of helicopter

Photo: Paul Roy

Some heavily indebted deer farms went into bankruptcy. Many people like Harvey Hutton were ruined overnight, losing both land and house. Even today those who were caught out are bitter about the way the legislation was brought in with no consultation or the chance to prepare.

Today deer farming in New Zealand is a $300 million industry, the largest in the world. Some 2,000 farms hold 800,000 deer, all of it built on the back of these pioneers.

Young hunter with horse in front of mountains

Photo: Dave Osmers

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You can hear it on Sunday mornings after 7am on RNZ National from Sunday 22 October.

Written and presented by Paul Roy.

Sound engineer - Alex Harmer.

Additional sound engineering - Jeremy Ansell and William Saunders.

Executive producers - Katy Gosset, Justin Gregory and Tim Watkin.

Deer Wars is made with the support of a Ngā Kōrero Tuku Iho, Piki Ake! Kake Ake! New Zealand Oral History Grant from Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage to Iguana Productions.


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