Friday, April 12, 2024

Sir Tim Wallis 1938-2023: Deer pioneer

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Passionate aviator led the way to era of heli deer capture.
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Deer industry pioneer Sir Tim Wallis, who has died at the age of 85, will be remembered as one the sector’s foremost entrepreneurs.

His keenness to hunt deer led to the establishment of a venison business in the early 1960s.

Then, harnessing his deep passion for aviation, he launched a new era for the industry when he hired a helicopter and a pilot to recover deer from the Wanaka area.

This was the beginning of heli deer capture, with a large wild population of deer providing a ready source of stock. 

Wallis bought his first helicopter in 1965 and learnt to fly it. 

By 1970 more than 60 helicopters were being used for shooting and deer recovery for deer farming, prompting the formation of the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association in 1975 with 25 founding members, of whom Wallis was one. 

The first deer auction was held on his property in 1977. Prices for the 383 animals sold ranged from $750 for mature stags to $250 for weaner stags. Six-month-old weaner hinds fetched $550.

In 2005 more than 1.7 million deer were being farmed in NZ, compared with 5.1 million dairy cows, almost 40 million sheep and 2.8 million beef cattle.

NZ led the world in deer farming, both in its technology and its relative contribution to the national economy. The Wallis family has owned and operated Wanaka-based Alpine Helicopters and Minaret Station for 55 years, and Wallis, who survived 15 air crashes in his lifetime, founded the Warbirds over Wanaka Airshow in 1988.

Known as a humble man who kept his feet on the ground, Wallis was knighted for his service to deer farming exports and the community in 1994.  

He passed away at his home in Wanaka, surrounded by family and with a helicopter parked outside his window.

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