Need To Know

All LWFC events are open to EVERYONE!

Competitors & spectators, young & old, amateurs & pros, town & country, sponsors & volunteers.

LWFCs are so easy to be a part of, as a competitor simply include AT LEAST one wild ingredient in an entry of your choice. Hot, cold, liquid, frozen, raw, marinated, smoked, seared, preserved… ANYTHING! Spectators and volunteers can enjoy SEEING and TASTING dishes created by locals in a CASUAL, FUN environment.


All entries are anonymous to our judging panel. NO PRESSURE. Equipment to finish off and hold dishes are provided. Amazing PRIZE PACKAGES up for grabs, donated by GENEROUS COMMUNITY FOCUSED businesses and individuals. GET OUT THERE and join our GROWING global local wild food challenge community.

On The Day


2018 details to come.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Gates open: 10:30am
Prize-giving: 3pm


Registration is easy……..

Simply send us an email to info@localwildfoodchallenge.com with your intent to enter.

You can also register on the day at the event. Entry forms will be provided at the venue.


Each Challenge Venue will have equipment such as ovens, grill plates, BBQ’s & Refrigerator to finish & hold dishes.


      • Fill out your entry form with Local Wild Food Staff at the sign posted registration table.
      • Don’t forget to bring a story of your dish.
      • You will be directed to cooking/culinary equipment should you require it.
      • When your dish is ready it will be taken to the judging table for scoring.
      • Remember….. all entries are anonymous to the judges until the final tally of scores.


Once all dishes have been tasted & scored by the judges the winners will be announced & prizes awarded.

Depending on the individual event, there is often a Wild Food cooking demo presented whilst the judges tally the scores.

If you have any questions, please contact us at info@localwildfoodchallenge.com or on our Facebook page.


Getting Here

The Whakatāne District is in the heart of the Bay of Plenty region, just one hour’s drive from Rotorua and Tauranga and 4 hour’s drive from Auckland.

Ōhope Beach is just a short 5 min drive from the Whakatāne township.

There are also regular direct flights between Auckland and Whakatāne.

Find out more on the Whakatane.com website »

Air ChathamsFlight bookings

Flights between Auckland and Whakatāne are serviced via Air Chathams.

Phone: 0800 580 127


Whether you are looking for luxury, after an adventure, a family of five here for holiday fun, or keen for some ‘back to nature’ camping under the stars the Whakatāne District has a magnificent selection of places to stay catering to all budgets.

For a real kiwi holiday experience stay in a Bach at Ōhope Beach, or enjoy the hospitality of a B&B. Looking for a self-indulgent weekend? Ask at the Visitor Information Centre for Luxury Accommodation that includes pampering packages and impressive deals.

Enjoy your stay in Whakatāne – the Gateway to White Island.

Find more information about accommodation options in Whakatāne »

Need a hand booking your stay? Email the Whakatāne i-SITE team whakataneinfo@whakatane.govt.nz or call us on 0800 942 528.

Tuscany Villas Boutique Hotel

Tuscany Villas Boutique Hotel

Tuscany Villas Boutique Hotel is in the heart of town, across the road from the river, with cafes and restaurants next door and a short walk from the event venue – book your stay with our event sponsors today »

Things to do

Live volcanoes, native forests, white sand beaches, tasty fish, friendly people. All of New Zealand in one package. Here are some of our favourites:

White Island

Whakatāne – The Gateway to White Island

We are the ‘Gateway to White Island’, visit an active marine volcano, 50kms offshore.

Explore Whale Island Sanctuary/Moutohorā – see the abundant wildlife and geothermal activity with a guided walk or kayak tour.

Swim with the dolphins, watch whales or seals, or go scuba diving.

Hike Ngā Tapuwae o Toi track – a breathtaking coastal walkway between Whakatāne and Ōhope

Ōhope Beach – NZ’s Most loved beach – great surfing and swimming, or explore secluded ōtarawairere Bay

Fun family activities

Fun family activities

Fish Superb ocean and river spots with a fishing charter or experienced trout guide.

Experience unique Māori Culture at the magnificent Mataatua Wharenui.

Bike, Walk or run breathtaking trails in the Whirinaki te Pua a Tāne, Te Uruwera or the nearby ‘Great-Ride’ – Mōtū Trails

Golf in paradise at Ōhope – one of the top coastal links courses in New Zealand

Hear the call of wild Kiwi – with an evening walk in the Ōhope Scenic Reserve.

Ōhope International Golf Club.

Ōhope International Golf Club. Rated one of the top links courses in NZ.

Boutique Shopping – discover the unique range of fashion, homeware and gifts in Whakatāne.

Visit the Official Whakatāne website for more »


Whakatāne is very excited to host its second Local Wild Food Challenge on the 3 February 2018.

Organisers are looking forward to making it even bigger and better this time around. The challenge will be held at one of the Whakatane District’s most stunning locations, and New Zealand’s ‘Most Loved Beach’  the Mahy Reserve in Ōhope where spectators and supporters can look forward to a day of cooking demonstrations, local food stalls, live entertainment and activities for the kids, while the competitors create their own unique wild food dishes.


Toa the Hunter Gatherer to judge at the Whakatāne Local Wild Food Challenge

Owen Boynton, star of the popular television series Toa the Hunter Gatherer, has been named as a judge for the Whakatāne Local Wild Food Challenge.

Mr Boynton grew up in Waimana and Whanganui a Tara but also calls Gisborne home, and his television show follows him as he explores the unique attributes of regional New Zealand and their historical approaches to hunting and fishing. So far the series has seen him visit locations from Tarawera to the Chatham Islands, but he is looking forward to getting back to Whakatāne for the Local Wild Food Challenge.

Toa the Hunter Gatherer to judge at Local Wild Food Challenge

“From a very young age I found adventure in our wild country, always wanting to hunt and fish and learn of the kai we could pursue and gather in our big wilderness backyard.”

“I have a strong link to Whakatāne,” he says, “with my family who still live there and the small settlement of Waimana where I spent the first years of my life. From a very young age I found adventure in our wild country, always wanting to hunt and fish and learn of the kai we could pursue and gather in our big wilderness backyard.”

Mr Boynton is an established maker of hunting bows, with clients across the globe, but he is just as interested in the preparation of wild game as he is in catching it. “As a hunter I have had a fascination of not only hunting for kai but learning the many ways we can prepare it for the table,” he says. “I was inspired by a friend of mine Carlos Martinez, a Mexican Chef and hunter too. He opened my eyes to the diverse flavours and colourful creations one could create with wild food. The thing I like about wild food is well, just that: its wild! I put a lot of thought into the animals I hunt, the foods I gather and keeping a balance and respect to what’s harvested, and I feel putting the extra effort in to creating awesome tasting food gives us an added appreciation for our organic kai.”

As a judge Mr Boynton says he will be looking for presentation that compliments the kai harvested, “but also flavours that allow the original wild taste to still come through. “The bounty of wild Aotearoa is at our fingertips, it just takes a few skills and know-how and anyone can enjoy the adventure and fulfilling feeling of hunting and gathering wild kai. To those that enter, well done that’s a win in itself – well it is for me anyway as I get to taste your creation!”

“The bounty of wild Aotearoa is at our fingertips, it just takes a few skills and know-how and anyone can enjoy the adventure and fulfilling feeling of hunting and gathering wild kai.”

The Whakatāne Local Wild Food Challenge is held at Mataatua in summer, with food demonstrations, kids events and live music.

As any Kiwi hunter will tell you, nothing beats wild venison, and Owen Boynton’s favourite way to serve it is as aged eye fillet with a rocket, spinach and watercress salad topped with a sweet onion dressing. Owen has kindly shared his family recipe with us.

Wild venison with sweet onion dressingSweet Onion Dressing

  • 1 cup Water
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  •  6 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion flakes
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smokey paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. In a medium-sized sauce pan, whisk all the ingredients.
  2. Place on the stove set to medium-high heat. Whisk continuously until it comes to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Let it cool then and refrigerate- place into jars etc.

Chronicles of a (failed) Whitebaiter

Having grown up and lived in a big city most of my life, my hunting and gathering skills have been limited to driving to grocery stores and navigating the aisles (I am really good at this I might add). When I moved to Whakatane four years ago, I became acutely aware of my limitations in the hunting and foraging department. So a while back I decided to do something about it. I tried my hand at whitebaiting and taking advantage of the bounty our beautiful district has to offer.

I did what any self-respecting and well-prepared city girl does and researched everything I could about whitebaiting on Encyclopedia Google (side note: Googling “how to whitebait” the night before you go whitebaiting for the first time is a relatively futile exercise).  I got up at an obscenely early hour (no seriously, anyone that knows me knows to approach me only after my second coffee has kicked in), tagged along with four other amateur whitebaiters with almost as much experience in whitebaiting as me, and walked to the river with a whitebait net and a strange contraption of white pvc tube and empty milk container that’s supposed to help spot the whitebait.

After 3 hours of standing barefoot, knee deep in ice cold water, we came away with 6 whitebait. That is right ladies and gentlemen – SIX. Not 6 pounds, but 6 (I suspect one of them was already in the net from the last use). I will not be quitting my day job anytime soon, folks. Turns out that by the time we headed out to the river, most serious whitebaiters were already done eating whitebait fritters for breakfast with a side of plain white bread loaded with butter and a slice of lemon. With a dollop of butter. Did I mention butter? YUM! Let’s move on to what I can actually do – which is cook. Even though my merry band of amateur whitebaiters didn’t catch anything, we did manage to score a respectable amount by winning a raffle. We went with a classic whitebait fritter recipe, quite a bit like an omelet – eggs, whitebait, salt and pepper and plenty of butter!

“After 3 hours of standing barefoot, knee deep in ice cold water, we came away with 6 whitebait. That is right ladies and gentlemen – SIX. Not 6 pounds”

Whitebait Fritter

The Classic Whitebaite Fritter, photo by tastechronicles.com

Classic Whitebait Fritters

Yield – 10 – 12 Fritters
Total Time – 15 Minutes


  • 7 Large Eggs
  • 200 grams Whitebait
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked Pepper, to taste
  • Lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Whip up eggs in a large mixing bowl
  2. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Add whitebait
  4. Heat up a pan and add half a tablespoon of butter
  5. Add ¼ cup of the mix and let cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
  6. Flip it over and cook for another minute.
  7. Serve with a lemon wedge and buttered bread

For the original post and for more international culinary adventures, visit Taste Chronicles www.tastechronicles.com

Find out about whitebait regulations and the whitebaiting season for all of New Zealand except the West Coast, and learn more about whitebait.

Introducing Jono Marr, chef extraordinaire and owner of Whakatāne’s Soulsa restaurant

After a highly successful inaugural event, the Whakatāne Local Wild Food Festival returns to Mataatua on 10 December with more prizes, more kids events and even more wild food. Jono Marr, chef extraordinaire and owner of Whakatāne’s Soulsa restaurant, is one of this year’s judges and he is also no stranger to incorporating ingredients plucked from the environment into his menu.

Jono Marr, chef extraordinaire

“…when you are getting something locally you know it is fresh and you know where it has come from.”

“What I love most about using wild ingredients is the freshness,” he says. “I grew up on wild venison as my father was a mad hunter – it was really him who taught me to cook – and when you are getting something locally you know it is fresh and you know where it has come from. I really love kina and you also just cannot beat fresh whitebait, but there are also quite simple ways to use native flavours in your cooking as seasoning.”

One of Marr’s favourites in this regard is kawakawa, the small but ubiquitous green shrub that can be found growing widely throughout the Bay. It has long been used by Māori in traditional medicine, but for Jono it is a first-class seasoning, which is not surprising as the plant is related to black pepper vine. “I just love kawakawa, it’s so versatile and it has a fantastic flavour. And for me flavour is what it’s all about and that’s what I’ll be looking for in the Wild Food Challenge: presentation is important – food should look good – but it’s the flavour that should linger and stay with you. I’m not really and arty-farty kind of chef, what I’m about is solid, memorable flavours, and using native ingredients is a great way to achieve that.”

“I’m not really and arty-farty kind of chef, what I’m about is solid, memorable flavours…”

If you are thinking of entering find out more about the day to see how you can get involved. In the meantime here is one of Jono’s personal kawakawa recipes to get you started.

Kawakawa Hollandaise Recipe

“This goes really well with fresh fish and asparagus,” Jono says, “and as asparagus are in season and the sea is usually calm at this time of year, it’s a great timely recipe.”


  • 300g Butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp Cream
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 1 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 kawakawa leaves (use only leaves that have holes in them)
  • Pinch of black pepper


  1. Dice butter into microwave-proof bowl, wrap with cling wrap, and set aside.
  2. Put all other ingredients into food processor.
  3. Turn food processor on and leave it going; while food processor is going heat butter for three minutes (you want all the butter to be melted and boiling).
  4. Take butter from microwave and let it sit for a few seconds till it separates to butter fat and butter milk (the butter milk is white and settles on the bottom).
  5. With the food processor still going slowly add all the butter fat.
  6. Once the butter fat is added the hollandaise should be thick.
  7. Slowly add as much butter milk as you need to get the consistency that you would like (depends on how hot the butter fat is as to how thick your hollandaise will be, sometimes you use all the butter milk and sometimes just a little bit).

Enjoy with some fresh fish, asparagus and baby potatoes.

FEBRUARY 3 – 2018

Mahy Reserve
Pohutukawa Ave

Whakatane - Everything Under the sun
Whakatāne District Council