New Zealand, what do you think? Should we be farming Weka?

Last week Roger Beattie had a large display in the Observer. Here is what he had to say.




Eastern Buff Weka are native to the East Coast of the South Island.  Six pair were taken to the Chatham Islands in 1905 to control grass grub. They thrived there as there are no stoats. Buff Weka died out on the mainland in the 1930s.

I lived and worked on the Chathams for 17 years then my wife and I bought a farm on Banks Peninsula. We missed the weka so built NZs first large Predator Proof reserve in 1994 and became NZs most successful weka breeder. Breeding and giving away 100’s.

For the record

New Zealand has the world’s worst record for bird species becoming extinct. (74 since man arrived in New Zealand).

71 of our 218 native birds are threatened and only one fish, the Great White Shark. (Draft Threatened Species Strategy DOC May 2017).

In contrast to birds, commercial fisheries are in phenomenal shape. According to MPI’s latest stock assessments ‘The status of NZ Fisheries report for 2106‘ “97% of scientifically evaluated landings were from stocks above or well above sustainable levels”. (Seafood NZ May,5 2017).

Why the contrast between Birds and Fish?

Is the answer in the legislation?

Prior to 1984 NZs Fisheries were in bad shape and getting worse, The Quota Management System (QMS) was introduced to alter incentives and stop the race for fish.

DOC didn’t get reformed by the 1984-87 Labour government and as a result DOC runs a command and control, Top down, Bureaucracy knows best, get around the table, consult with everyone, indecisions by committee, intentions matter, Pagan Worshipping, Myopic Monopoly.

MPI, fishermen and Quota Owners are outcomes driven, bottom up, efficiency focused, scientifically assessed, self-criticising, incentivised to be sustainable, racially mature and harmonious, free market property rights evangelists.

The purpose of the ‘Conservation Act 1987’ is to “Establish a department of conservation” (DOC Monopoly).

The purpose of the ‘Fisheries Act 1996’ is to provide for the utilisation of fisheries resources while ensuring sustainability (Sustainable utilisation).

DOC and birds is a horse and cart. MPI and fisheries is a Tesla.

How might we improve the Conservation Act?

Change the purpose ‘To promote the Conservation of NZ’s natural and historic resources’.

Put individuals, groups, Maori and companies etc. on a level playing field with DOC.

DOC should not be the Rule setter, the player, the referee, and the Judge & Jury.

Am I being a bit hard on DOC?

Consider this, in September 2016 I was heading to the Chatham Islands with the TV3 “Story” crew to film a weka programme. I wanted to get some live weka for breeding and some for the pot.

I rang the DOC office in Palmerston North and was told that I would have to do four lots of consultation before I could fill out the paperwork for live weka transfer.

I rang the Chatham Islands DOC office for 10 weka to eat and the permit was filled out whilst on the phone.

Go figure, two years it took to get the last live weka permit and one minute to get a permit for dead weka.

DOC is also killing up to 500 weka per year on the Chathams. DOC has a policy to repatriate weka back to their original areas – Yeah Right!

Many people in DOC including the Minister and the Director General mean well, but more power and money is not the solution.

Farming is the solution

Weka are ideally suited to farming, they are attracted to humans. They multiply quickly – the best we have done is 17 chicks from one breeding pair in a year. They grow quickly, they are good for pest control; spiders, grass grub, maggots, rats, and mice. They have multiple end uses, meat to high end restaurants, feathers in your cap, weka oil – Yes! They thrive in a variety of climates.

They are quick to process, they taste fantastic and are oh so healthy to eat. They are the “ultimate” in sustainable food as no chemicals are needed to grow them. They are enjoyable to farm and are smarter than chooks.

They are light on the land and use water efficiently. They require 1/10th of a hectare per breeding pair and can be farmed with cattle, sheep, in orchards or on lifestyle blocks.

We in New Zealand farm native shellfish; mussels, paua and oysters. We farm native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Why not weka?

We have a crisis on our hands. We need to change the way we think and act.

We need to harness the power of the market and the innovation of entrepreneurs.

The future of our endangered bird species depends on it.

No farmed species has ever died out.


Roger Beattie

Organic Sheep, Beef, Paua, Kelp and Weka farmer

Federated Farmers Personality of the Year 2010

Angela Low