Some time back - I'm not sure exactly when - the council in Napier vowed to rid Bluff Hill's bush-clad valleys of pests, namely rats and those wretched possum fellows who were doing what they have always done since they turned up here in the 1830s from Australia.

That is, eating buds, flowers, fruits and seeds which in the long run robs the native populace of birds, bats and lizards of vital food supplies.

It is estimated there are about 50 million possums spread from one end of the country to the other now, so if they all eat just four or five seeds or flowers every day, that's a lot of seeds and flowers.

They were brought over here by some bright spark who figured they could make serious money in terms of the fur trade but it never took off with the gusto they figured it would and the possums just kept on breeding and spreading.


Meanwhile, on those sailing vessels which brought the brutes across the Tasman, I daresay there were rats and stoats from the old country and they, too, decided the menu available in their new homeland was excellent.

So the likes of the beautiful makomako (bellbirds) and tui suffered, along with the ground-based flightless birds.

This all came to mind (and typing fingers) the other day when I heard someone mention how wonderful it was to hear tui and makomako singing and warbling in the valleys of the hill again. The traps had clearly worked. The spin-off is that we with trees amid the suburbs also receive visits from these once-rare birdies.

The traps were our hit-men and they carried out their contracts superbly. It can be done, and it was rather splendid to hear last week there are plans for a national war against unwanted predators and that during the announcement the "Cape to City" project sparked and passionately pursued here in the Bay got the big tick as a fine example of how groups could work to evolve effective eradication traps and technologies.

We are on to it and that's got the tui, makomako, kiwi and anything else on a survival knife's-edge smiling ... and singing.

Odd thing about the possum is that over in Oz where they came from, and where they are known as brushtail possums, they are listed as a protected native species. Maybe it's because there's enough food for all and the only flightless bird they could pick on is an emu with the physical ability to easily stomp them to death - and the Tasmanian Devil won't stand for any nonsense.

When we were over there a few years back we were wandering through a park up Bendigo way and were followed by half a dozen possums clearly unafraid of humans. We fed them the last pieces of food we had with us and they came close enough to touch. In the backyard of where we were staying there were a couple of trees and at night the brushtail boys would come down and sit nearby as we sipped (appropriately) on a can or three of Emu Bitter. On one occasion a cheeky one darted forward and snatched an offering of bread from our kids' outstretched hand.

Fascinating little chaps and, oddly enough, a world away from the flora-devouring brutes here.

While there we heard a delightful story about one great old Kiwi stalwart of a bloke who was in Australia seeing friends and family and was delighted to share his barbecue skills when it came to doing the meat patties. It was a thoroughly enjoyable social gathering, I understand, but some of the Aussie guests were horrified when a backyard game of cricket later in the evening went horribly wrong - from their point of view.

A couple of docile possums had been spotted nearby and when the gnarly old Kiwi lad spotted them he did what he did back home on his rural spread: he went for them.

Cricket bat in hand, he stealthily approached the brushtail boys and they watched him in bemusement.

Then, equipped with a fine Gunn and Moore bat he sent one to the boundary for six with a magnificent off-drive.

"They're bloody protected!" one of the Aussie guests cried out in horror.

"Not from where I come from," he angrily replied.

So I reckon he's one bloke the Government needs to track down as it implements their conservation war against pests.

Oh, that nine-letter word from last week's column, with all the vowels in it and in the right order? Was I making it up or was I just being facetious?

- Roger Moroney is an award-winning journalist for Hawke's Bay Today and observer of the slightly off-centre.