'Politico obnoxus' sightings prompt pest board warning

A timely warning (an ''advisory'' they call it, in keeping with their bureaucratic image) has been issued by the Pest Eradication Board (PEB) and it is worth running here as the media have generally ignored it in favour of stories about Prince George's birthday.

Pest Eradication Board Advisory.

This warning is issued under the provisions of the Social Nuisances Act, 1954, and is being published in the interest of public safety and mental wellbeing.

1 There have been widespread reports of sightings of Politico obnoxus. This is to be expected as the creature is entering the last phase of its three-year activity cycle and a general election is attracting it away from its usual gloomy habitat.

2 In their own lair the creatures have been known to come to blows, but the Politico obnoxus does not pose a physical threat to the public

3 The creatures often wear rosettes, a primitive affectation which marks them out from more highly developed animals. Shopping malls, school fairs and high-profile sports events seem to be targeted. The Politico obnoxus start up conversations with complete strangers. (They will frequently want to discuss whether more teachers with smaller classes beats fewer teachers with bigger classes but with flasher computers and other such ''how many angels can stand on a pinhead?'' trivia). They also appear in public bars but will quickly disappear if greeted with, ''G'day. It's your shout.''

4 Most disturbing is the tendency for the creatures to come on to private property. This they will usually do in pairs, wearing beaming smiles and carrying clipboards. This can be very frightening for the householder, especially for young children, the elderly and those in between. However, their activity is not illegal and the police advise there is no point in calling 111. A simple ''Go away!'', perhaps with the addition of a mild expletive, is probably the best solution. In the past, householders who have physically attacked Politico obnoxus have been prosecuted by the SPCA and heavy fines have resulted.

5 Some animal behaviourists suggest that you befriend the creatures and even invite them into your home, perhaps give them a cup of tea. While this approach does subdue the naturally aggressive nature of the Politico obnoxus, it can lead to very long and very boringly convoluted discussions about monetary policy or about how other packs of Politico obnoxus are sending the country to hell in a handcart.

6 Much of the recent invasion is rather less physical but can still be annoying. We have noticed an upsurge in newspaper articles written by Politico obnoxus. Most display an extraordinarily high level of concern for the electorate, which was not obvious during the more quiescent period of the Politico obnoxus' life cycle. Much the same can be said of the letters-to-the-editor columns and radio talkback shows, which in some cases are almost overrun by this quaint pest.

7 Some extreme invasions have been reported. A Politico obnoxus, who was quite unknown to anyone at the function, recently stood up at a wedding and made a political speech on behalf of the bridesmaids. He was stopped only by the bride wrestling him to the ground. The bride said it was his judo training which did the trick, while the groom said he would have helped but he left such things to his 16-stone ex-All Black partner. (The bridesmaids, incidentally, make up the front row of the Old Boys senior rugby team in a North Island city).

8 The Board can only suggest a short-term solution. Leaving the country for a few weeks is an obvious answer and some travel agents are offering special packages. A fortnight in ''Election-Free Fiji'' can be had for about $3000. An alternative could be to kayak across the Tasman without a radio or cellphone, but this would be a ''last-ditch'' solution (if you will excuse some bureaucratic humour).

9 The Board has no long-term solution to this problem. For an eradication programme to be carried out, the Politico obnoxus would have to be officially declared a pest. Teams of hunters and trappers could then be sent in, or poison dropped from the air in likely places like airport lounges and Hawaiian beaches. But a law change would need to be carried out by the Politico obnoxus themselves and the species is unlikely to sign its own death warrant.

10 The only consolation for the public is that after the ritual election the Politico obnoxus will return to its lair, an odd beehive-shaped retreat in Wellington where for the next few years they will simply squabble among themselves, break a few laws and generally ignore the public. A most satisfactory conclusion.

Jim Sullivan is a Dunedin writer and broadcaster.

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