Southland pushing to become a foodie's paradise

Source: 1News

Southland is famous for cheese rolls and Bluff oysters, but the region has a plan to bring even more to the table for hungry visitors.

The region wants to better utilise home-grown produce with a strategy to become a foodie's paradise.

Invercargill café The Batch is hot on supporting local.

Their latest creation is made exclusively with southern produce.

“We've got an amazing abundance of produce in the region,” co-owner Kate French said.

“What we've got is a dish called ‘Made in Murihiku', so it's a meal that's basically Southland on a plate.”

It's just one of the many businesses pushing for the south to be the newest food capital.

“We know that food travellers tend to stay longer in the region and spend more with our local businesses,” said Amie Young from the region’s economic development group, Great South.

“TripAdvisor … suggests that these food experiences are the fastest-growing food category worldwide.”

There are already some strong staples, including the treasured Bluff oyster, the Fiordland lobster and what locals call ‘Southland Sushi’, also known as a cheese roll.

But there are now plans to add more to the menu and bring it all together.

“There's never been a regional strategy to unite the industry and get a cohesive effort going to work together and put our product on a plate and start singing about how wonderful it is,” French said.

Tourism was a major growth industry for Southland pre-Covid, with overall spending up 50 per cent between 2013 and 2019.

Now the region hopes food tourism can build on that over the next five years.

Small producers are buzzing about the idea, including Chris Fraser from Miele Apiaries Honey just north of Invercargill.

“We are a little understated about it. We don't usually stand on our soapbox and shout about it so I think this is an opportunity to do that, to show the world and New Zealand what we've got," he said.

So too for an up-and-coming business specialising in cocktail paua produced near Bluff which is soon to be on the menu.

“Why wouldn't you want to come here? It's exciting here too – it’s more than exciting," The New Zealand Abalone Company's Linda Smith said.

The next step – getting everyone onboard.

“The ability to connect everybody together is the big thing where we are focusing on, also a lot of our businesses are export-focused and so are now looking at catering to visitors and local communities will be a change,” Young said.

Flack has worked in Michelin star restaurants and believes it's possible.

“Our climate is brilliant; our soils are fantastic and our people are amazing… I think a combination of those things really creates an idea in people's minds that Southland is a destination they need to go to.”

“A lot of work needs to go in but absolutely I believe it can be successful,” French added.