Normally, when John Johnson thinks he hears a nocturnal possum, he goes after it with a gun. He didn't do that on Saturday night, and was mightily relieved that he hadn't.
It wasn't a possum he heard at around 8.30 but two thieves, both wearing balaclavas, who used a crowbar to break through a wooden door then smash the glass of a display cabinet at Waiharara's Gumdiggers' Park, helping themselves to gum he gave a retail value of more than $30,000.
They threw a large piece of gum at Mr Johnson, who lives on the premises, when he confronted them and barged past him, fleeing in a car. Mr Johnson was unable to get a registration number as the tail lights disappeared in the distance, heading north.
The theft was devastating, he said yesterday, not only for the value of the gum but the fact that it had been part of a collection he had amassed over 20 years. The intruders had known what they were looking for, he added, as he awaited the arrival of a police forensic officer yesterday.
"What they've taken is irreplaceable," he said.
"It was really good-quality museum pieces. And there will definitely be a ready market for it.
"They won't get anything like what it's actually worth, but that won't worry them. They'll just be after some cash so they can buy their P, and they won't have much trouble finding a buyer."
Kauri gum was now "worth its weight in gold", he said. Once weighed in kilos, it was now valued in grams, depending upon its quality.
"And it was so brazen," Mr Johnson added.
"They probably knew someone was living on the premises, but that didn't seem to bother them."
They had also used the crowbar to break into a vehicle parked immediately outside the premises.
Mr Johnson said things were a bit quiet at this time of year but he had had a good season, and the park was open for business as usual yesterday.