Update: 14 July 2014 – Possum pies are no longer on the menu at the Bushman Centre in Pukekura. The owners of the Bushman Centre appeared on the Sunday show last night. There’s a dispute over whether the pies were being sold, or exchanged for a donation. The Ministry for Primary Industries believes the pies were being sold and cites a potential food safety risk as the sale of possum meat is not regulated. There’s been one court appearance but it looks like mediation will take place to see if the dispute can be resolved.
20 July 2014 – The Sunday show followed up to say that the outcome of mediation was that possum pies will no longer be on the menu at the Bushman Centre, no further court action will be taken. (I’m unsure what this means for the future of the Bushman Centre as possum pies were a drawcard. If you’re interested in finding out more about the man behind the pies – Pete the Bushman, check out his recently published book).
Possums are more than just curious kai at the rustic Bushman’s Centre in Pukekura. Possum skins are used as seat coverings, and to make unique vests for children under the Boyang label.
Curiously, it’s currently illegal to sell possum pies in New Zealand. It was legal back in 2004, Nick Smith, the MP for Nelson was keen for Pete’s Possum Pies to be included on the menu at Bellamy’s – the MP’s dining room at Parliament. MP’s aren’t eating all the pies, so if you donate $4 at the Bushman’ s Centre to the fight against 1080 poison, they’ll give you a possum pie for free. What does possum taste like? It doesn’t have a strong taste, when customers are asked they often reply it tastes like lamb, we agree, so the pies are a mild introduction to wild food. Other curious kai on the menu may include bunny rabbit or bambi burgers, and whitebait sandwiches.
You may also find a possum or two in the small museum at the Bushman’s Centre. I didn’t visit the museum, I was too busy working up the courage to ask the bushman about his curious company car – the Duzgo. Turns out I didn’t need much courage as the bushman is the friendly kind, not the scary kind. However the Duzgo had gone – it was getting repaired and would be sold on its return, I had to make do with seeing it in miniature.
Only 10 Duzgo were ever produced, they were primarily built from parts of other vehicles. However the government of the day decided to class the Duzgo as new and demanded sales tax. The Duzgo Manufacturing Company couldn’t afford the tax and production ceased in the 1970’s, the same decade it began. My search for a life size Duzgo continues.
Our visit to the Bushman’s Centre was memorable, we appreciated the humour – look out for the giant sandfly a.k.a. Pteradactyl legpullus. You’ll find the Bushman’s Centre in Pukekura, between Hokitika and Franz Josef – when the sandfly’s out, they’ll be open. (Note: The Bushman’s Centre website is out of date, as mentioned, possum pies are no longer sold commercially, and the Puke Pub is no longer open).