Sir Tim Wallis: a big totara has fallen in the deer industry

Oct 19, 2023

One of this industry’s founding fathers, Sir Tim Wallis, died in Wanaka on Tuesday 17 October, aged 85. The crash of the mighty tree will be heard around the deer farming world, after a life well lived.

Lynda Gray’s book In Hindsight: 50 years of deer farming in New Zealand details in full his incredible contribution to deer farming. This spanned his first project “turning the plentiful [feral] deer into a source of income” together with his friend, Robert Wilson in the 1950s, through to pioneering helicopter venison recovery, setting up Luggate Deer Packers for processing the feral deer and the exciting and wild days of the late 1960s when he, with other pioneers, developed live capture of deer for farming. Among the farms owned by his company Alpine Deer were Criffel Game Park, near Wanaka, and Mararoa Station in Te Anau, which at their peak grazed 7,000 deer. Both were sold by 1987.

Sir Tim Wallis feeling right at home in the helicopter at Invermay’s 50th anniversary celebrations last year, pictured with retired AgResearch Invermay scientist Colin Mackintosh (right). Photo: Phil Stewart.

After adventures in Canada and Russia – both markets that piqued Wallis’ entrepreneurial interest for deer – he returned to the South Island High Country, buying the 20,000-hectare Minaret Station in 1995, which the company developed for 10,600 deer stock units.

Wallis received several awards over his life, the pinnacle of which was being knighted in 1994 in acknowledgement of his pioneering of helicopter live deer recovery and deer industry leadership, including membership of the NZDFA Council from 1997-1983. That same year he was also awarded a Commemorative Medal, jointly with Sir Peter Elworthy, for their services to the deer industry.

This industry was only one part of the rugged Southern Man’s life – he was also very active in aviation, establishing the very popular Warbirds Over Wanaka event – and surviving several serious flying accidents on the way.

Our deepest condolences go to his surviving family – his wife Lady Prue and two sons Jonathan and Toby and their families, his two other sons Nick and Matt both tragically died in separate helicopter accidents in 2018 – and his many friends throughout New Zealand and the world. He will be missed by so many in our sector.

Deer Industry News will carry a full obituary in the December-February 2024 edition. If anyone has memories of Sir Tim Wallis to share, contact editor Lynda Gray  

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