Now that our super-heroes, the Fix-it Phils, have paired up to conquer Auckland's housing crisis, make the buses run on time, solve kauri die-back and stop sewage gushing into the sparkling Waitemata after every storm, let's hope they're not about to lie back and dream of knighthoods.

There are nasty nocturnal hi-jinks taking place in backyards across the city that need their urgent attention. In this household at least, the Link bus failing to show up rapidly drops down the worry-list at this time of year, when rats start snuffling around the house seeking shelter.

Last week, came the annual, "Plague of rats hits Remmers" scare story. Frankly, I was too busy across in Ponsonby repulsing my own would-be intruders to care.

In the past, my first warning has been the tell-tale scurrying across the old pressed steel ceilings late at night. This time I got off lightly. It was rat droppings on the laundry window sill.


One or more had presumably climbed up the spiky trunk of the old bougainvillea. I tied the plant back from the window and cleaned the sill. That night they were back, leaping the gap to access their new toilet.

Too narrow to accommodate the trusty tunnel trap, I retrieved an old four-sided ceramic drainage pipe from the bottom of the yard which fitted perfectly onto the sill with room for entry at both ends. I then emptied a lethal dose of bait inside.

I like to think that for two nights it was rat heaven. There was green bait and poop all over the place. After that, nothing. They'd also had a gnaw at the bait in the tunnel trap on the ground below.

So had the slugs. One big fat one hadn't even made it out. Having won the first round for once, and with the trap loaded, my fingers are crossed. Last winter, after the roof was replaced, I had none.

That I heard anyway. But I only have to glance up to the ceiling light rose to bring me back to earth. A few years back, something died in the ceiling cavity while I was away.

Inaccessible from above, I had to tape over the decorative gaps in the ceiling around the light fitting to block the pungent smell of death. Being a lazy pessimist, the tape remains part of the décor.

I do suspect that before they expired, my latest furry invaders munched through my burgeoning lizard population. Over the summer, I found myself sharing by back deck with lizards sunning themselves. And the back garden. Then the kitchen, and finally, just before rattus arrived, one little lizard came wandering across the carpet in the front room while I was reading the morning paper.

According to the Department of Conservation, I should have exterminated them too. These little critters, if I've identified them correctly, are as evil as the rats. They're over-sexed Aussie invaders, that are out-breeding their local cousins and eating them out of house and home.


In Australia they're called "delicate skink" but here, the DoC propagandists have dubbed them "plague skink" and warned they're known home invaders and carriers of diseases such as salmonella and cryptosporidium!

Indeed DoC, and it seems, Auckland Council are so down on my cute lizards, they're currently trialling the ultimate weapon to fight them - a killer flock of 200 "biosecurity chickens" - specially trained to seek out and destroy a test infestation at Shoal Bay, Great Barrier Island.

Given the devastation backyard chooks cause in suburban backyards, I can't help thinking there's a nuclear weapon-type flaw in this scorched earth approach to conservation.

But getting back to the rats. We baby-boomers gets blamed for many things. But we can at least take credit for planting the suburban forest that now greens wide swathes of Ponsonby and Mt Eden and Devonport and the other areas we gentrified in the 70s and 80s. Tui and wax-eyes and other birdlife have followed, though slowly, I fear, due to the rat armies that remain endemic across the city.

Currently there are dad's army groups dotted about Auckland, trying to take on this losing battle, and hat's off to them. But really, this is a fight, on both a public health and environmental front, that cries out for direction and organisation at a government level. Is there a Phil free?