By Linda Platts
In the summer of 2007, Teresa Platt spent two weeks at PERC's Enviropreneur Camp sharpening his buisness skills and honing her plans for a commercial project based on the over-abundance of brushtail possums in New Zealand. According to Platt's project proposal, the possum was introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in 1837 where it had no natural predators.Since then, the possum has proliferated rapidly, now numbering more than 50 million animals and occupying 90 percent of the country.
The government considers it a "noxious pest" and a danger to New Zealand's rare birds and trees. Each year, more $50-70 million of taxpayer money is spent in an attempt to slow down the spread of the possum.
Platt proposed creating a fur industry with the abundant possum fur as its main product. The fur is lightweight with superior heat retaining properties, comparable to mink in some ways. If successful, the possum pelts would earn revenues for the government and profits for associated private industries.
The benefits of such an industry would be not only monetary, but also environmental. The industry would help manage the species and perhaps eradicate in some areas where it poses a threat to New Zealand's native birds and vegetation.
In the year since Platt graduateded from the PERC program, she has made great strides toward the goals she set forth. A recent news article reports that she has convinced some members of parliament that the country's huge possum population represents a major commercial opportunity for New Zealand. Read more