Bee Dawson

When possums were introduced in 1837 to start a fur industry, no one predicted that these Australian neighbours would naturalize with destructive enthusiasm, wreaking havoc on gardens and bush alike. Up to 20 million possums a year were killed during the height of the fur trade, but this barely checked their rapid expansion.

My attempts at a lawn. Twice have we had the ground carefully dug up, and prepared; twice it has been sown with the best English seed… at considerable expense; …and the end of all the trouble has been that a strong nor’wester has blown away both seed and soil, leaving only the hard, un-dug ground. …there are the croquet things, lying idle in the verandah… they are likely to remain unused for ever.

Not all introductions worked well. Rabbits were an unmitigated environmental disaster. Unchecked by any natural predator, they bred at a staggering rate and chewed their way across vast areas of pastureland as well as any garden that came their way. Attempts to control them by introducing ferrets, weasels and stoats did much more harm than good. Although these predators probably killed a reasonable number of rabbits, they also devastated populations of kiwi and raided the nests of flighted birds.