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Hokitika Wild Food Festival

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Hokitika Wildfoods Festival

If you want wild foods while you are in New Zealand this is the place you need to be. Held each year in Hokitika, West Coast, New Zealand the Hokitika Wildfoods festival is an extravaganza of gourmet bushtucker, based on The West Coast's natural food sources. The emphasis is on novel, tasty and healthy wildfood.
As well as the food and drink experience there will be continuous entertainment all afternoon.
For information on the next wild food festival, including merchandise, dates and how to contract for ticket sales, click onto the website
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When Hokitika held its first Wildfoods Festival back in 1990, organisers did not realise that huge following it would attract.

It's all to do with the window to the West Coast lifestyle the event offers. The region has long had a reputation for being the place where things are done a little differently, where the pace is slower, where the people are friendlier - qualities that are increasingly valued these days. And West Coast wildfood is famous! There are many who will only eat West Coast whitebait, claiming it doesn't taste the same when it is caught in other parts of the country, and there are plenty more products in the region's larder. Thanks to the Hokitika Wild foods Festival, these are now available to everyone, and people are coming from all over New Zealand and beyond to sample them.

The Wild foods Festival grew out of a celebration of Hokitika's gold fields history when Heritage Hokitika marked the 125th anniversary of the birth of the town by opening the Quayside development on the north riverbank. The old Custom House, used in the days when the Hokitika port was the main entry to the West Coast goldfields, was a key feature of this development.


A local woman, Claire Bryant, had been looking for an activity with a West Coast theme to mark the completion of the project.
'One day the idea suddenly came to me that wild foods was it. Coasters are self starters, they're innovative and help each other too. They took enthusiastically to the idea. ' she said.
Hokitika's first Wild foods Festival attracted a crowd of 1800 people who gathered on the Quayside to 'taste the West Coast'. There was a wide range of food on offer at the 28 stalls including prize winning venison goulash, possum pate, vegetable kebabs, smoked eel and whitebait patties.

Local people entered the historical spirit of the occasion, dressing in period costume and one person even arrived on a pennyfarthing bicycle. The goldfields tradition was perhaps best expressed by the appearance of one of the most famous West Coast institutions, the Kokatahi Band.

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A child samples the wild food!

Formed in 1910, the band was made up of men who had immigrated to the West Coast from all parts of the world, bringing with them a rich range of musical tradition. The Kokatahi Band has entertained at every Wildfoods Festival and will be back again next year to lend a distinctive West Coast flavour to the event.
Entertainment has always been a key feature of the festival. Clowns, folk singers, buskers, skydivers and many other acts have combined to add something special to festival day. There are also cooking demonstrations from a wide range of experts and home brew competitions which feature some distinctive West Coast products. And no West Coast function would be complete without a bush dance. Festival goers love this unique local institution.

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The first Hokitika Wild foods Festival won a West Coast Tourism Award of Excellence and it was decided to turn it into an annual event. More recognition followed. The festival was a finalist in the prestigious American Express New Zealand Tourism Awards in 1991 and 1993. And the winner of the 1996 South Island's Most Unique Events Award.

It is seen as being a bit different from other events such as the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival in that its focus is on food rather than wine and it offers something for the whole family. This has proved to be a winning formula, with the festival getting bigger and better every year. It soon outgrew the Quayside site, and is now held on Cass Square in Hokitika.

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Black Powder Group

In 1993 the festival was taken over by the Westland District Council, and support from major sponsors Westpower, ECNZ and the West Coast brewery Monteiths have been vital to its continuance.

A bushman's hut serving billy tea brewed as the old timers used to drink it was one of the most popular stalls and there were many other West Coast products coming in for special attention. After all huhu grubs don't taste the same without the subtle rimu or kahikatea flavour available only in this region. Westcargots, too, are unique - a local snail cooked in white wine. Then there are delicacies like gumboot milkshakes, gorse flower wine, spagnum moss candy floss, high protein earthworms, blue fin tuna, scollops, whisky sausages, mussels, possum and bambi burgers, kumara patties, home made ice cream, pigs trotters, West Coast whitebait and the list goes on.
Festival organisers have had to balance MAF regulations with people's expectations of what a West Coast Wildfoods Festival is all about, with meat like possum and rabbit needing careful screening before it can be sold to eat. A workshop was held in Hokitika to inform stall holders on these issues and a good working compromise has been established. Those feeling adventurous will be able to try possum again next year, while the National Heart Foundation's 'Wild at Heart' competition will encourage stall holders to produce healthy wildfood.

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Billy Tea

The old style West Coast bushman was often a solitary individual but any early visitor chancing on his hut in the bush could be assured of the best in hospitality. Much has been written about early treats like camp oven bread, cooked to unique West Coast

Hokitika's Wild foods Festival ensures that this hospitality tradition lives on and can still be enjoyed by thousands of people every year.

Wildfoods Festival
Contact:- Mike Keenan
Events Co-ordinator
Westland District Council
Private Bag 704, Hokitika NEW ZEALAND
PH: 0064 3 755 8321
FAX: 0064 3 755 8026
Email contact

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Huhu Grubs!

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Country Men

Chef Gallery

Party Time

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Whitebait Patties Thousands enjoy the festival  


Hokitika Wild Foods Festival 2007

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