Bumps in the night

What’s re­ally keep­ing the first cou­ple awake

Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Ja­son Walls

Baby Neve is not the only thing keep­ing the Arderns awake at night. The Prime Min­is­ter and her fam­ily ap­pear to have a chronic pos­sum prob­lem at their Welling­ton home.

A group of the pesky mar­su­pi­als has taken up res­i­dence in the walls and on the roof of Premier House — the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the Prime Min­is­ter in the cap­i­tal.

The Her­ald on Sun­day un­der­stands Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gay­ford first thought the noise was rats in the kitchen and made at­tempts to snare the pests in Septem­ber.

But a cou­ple of days later the scrab­bling noises were back, in the walls and on the roof.

And they were so loud — wak­ing them in the night — that they re­alised the noise must be pos­sums. The ex­ter­mi­na­tors were called in.

Gay­ford ad­dressed “con­cerned mes­sages” about how tired he was look­ing while in New York at the UN. Now it ap­pears we may have found the rea­son.

Ardern said it sounded like a cat walk­ing around on the roof and in the walls. The ex­tent of the in­fes­ta­tion was not known: “I just know they’re there.

“They seem to keep sim­i­lar hours to us,” she added. “I don’t hear them so much at night, they seem to be out and about more in the early morn­ing.”

While stop­ping short of point­ing the fin­ger at pre­vi­ous ten­ant Sir John Key, she said the pos­sums “may well have been there for a while”.

The Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs, which man­ages Premier House on be­half of the Gov­ern­ment, said a pest con­trol com­pany had been work­ing at Premier House for the past three weeks “in re­la­tion to a pos­sum is­sue”.

Ear­lier this week, it was re­vealed Premier House was re­ceiv­ing a $1 mil­lion up­grade.

A DIA spokes­woman said this would go towards “rou­tine prop­erty up­grade, as part of DIA’s on­go­ing as­set man­age­ment pro­cesses, in­clud­ing bud­get al­lo­ca­tion”.

Speak­ing to New­stalk ZB’s Mike Hosk­ing this week, Ardern said the up­grade was partly for se­cu­rity rea­sons but also be­cause parts of the stately home were run down.

“Un­til re­cently, when it rained buck­ets were put up­stairs, so a bit of roof work was re­quired.”

The up­grade “isn’t go­ing to fix the fact we have pos­sums in the roof as well”, she said.

Mar­ion Cow­den, Chair­woman of the Thorn­don Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion — the sub­urb where Premier House is lo­cated — said it was not sur­pris­ing to hear of the pest prob­lem.

“Premier House board­ers right on to the bush area in that part of the town — there is a ma­jor pro­gramme un­der­way to get rid of preda­tors of na­tive birds.”

Pos­sums are a ma­jor prob­lem in the cap­i­tal, ac­cord­ing to the Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil. The prob­lem is so ap­par­ent that the coun­cil is aim­ing to make Welling­ton the first “preda­tor free cap­i­tal city in the world”. That means no more pos­sums.

Premier House in Welling­ton is pop­u­lar with pesky pos­sums.

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