Taranaki farm couple’s 25 year war of the roses with possums

Taranaki dairy farmer Fiona Henchman can now smell her roses. Photo – Andy Jackson.

Taranaki Daily News

Taranaki dairy farmer Fiona Henchman​ can now declare victory in a personal war of the roses she has waged against possums for a quarter of a century.

With husband John she has fought a backyard battle against thousands of possums hopping over the boundary fence from Egmont National Park to munch on fruit trees, grass pasture and treasured climbing roses.

Pasture near the national park boundary has also taken a hammering, with the pests’ eating habits leaving the ground resembling a mown strip.

Anything the couple attempted to plant and grow on the 130ha Upper Weld Road property was gnawed to the stem by the nocturnal marauders, she said.

The only nutrient area untouched was the vegetable garden.

“I’m not a serious rose grower. It was just that the possums wouldn’t let me grow anything. It’s been a war ever since.”

Although thousands of possums, some weighing up to 4.5kgs, were killed, with their fur sold to dealers to fund eradication, the pests kept coming, she said.

To combat the never-ending raids, Henchman wrapped rose buds and stems in glad wrap, laid poison cyanide and phosphorous baits, set traps, used thermal imaging detectors and attached ‘red dot’ night vision to a rifle, while leaving the window open at night, for a clear shot when they came on the verandah.

“We put a lot into getting rid of them – I called it saturation bombing – but it made no difference. The possums still stripped everything bare, but I wasn’t giving up.”

Henchman now thinks the possums are on the run after a concentrated trapping and aerial 1080 programme during the past 12 months in the Kaitake Ranges and Egmont National Park, work co-ordinated by the Department of Conservation, Taranaki Mounga and Towards Predator-Free Taranaki (TPFT).

“They came back a little during lockdown when the traps were not being checked, but now we have contractors on the farm every day monitoring the traps, and there has been a huge difference,” she said.

“The tui among the banksia are deafening.

“They’re (possums) still around but they are well under control.”

Read the full Taranaki Daily News article here.