From possums to air space by Angela Caldin

About two weeks ago, I was sitting at a residents’ meeting in leafy Remuera NZ. Top of the agenda was how best to deal with the possum that Stanley at number one had spotted squatting on the fence when he came home from his late shift one dark night.

Sharp teeth of destructive possum

Pests or protected?

In Australia, possums are protected wildlife and their removal can only be carried out by licensed commercial possum relocators (a job title to be proud of). By contrast, in New Zealand, possums are considered to be pests as they eat leaves and vegetation as well as birds’ eggs, they get into roof spaces, build nests and cause a considerable amount of havoc and, unlike cats, they are not at all careful about where they deposit their droppings. Stanley had found this out to his cost when he had inadvertently driven over a deposit and got the offending material all over his carpeted garage. (I know; crazy isn’t it, but they do put carpets in garages in NZ.)

Damage done by possum

It seemed that the council couldn’t help because the said possum was on private land, but they could supply a trap for a modest sum. However, once the possum was trapped, it would need to be despatched and then buried. Stanley felt that he would have no problem cutting the bugger’s throat, but others at the meeting preferred a kinder solution with a humane trap so that the possum could be relocated elsewhere.

The value of air

Skyscraper built out over four storey building’s air space

I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I would sit in a meeting discussing what to do about a possum, but when I returned to London, something equally strange, but different, happened. We are lucky enough to have a parking place next to our little house, as do the other three house owners in our terrace of four. A hand delivered letter from a property developer explained that they would like to make us an offer for the ‘air space’ above our parking place as they were planning to build a stylish residential development involving the demolition of the neighbouring working garage and the building out on pillars over our parking spaces. I had never heard of this before and I have no idea how much our air space would be worth. It had never really occurred to me that we owned the air above our land and property, but legally, we do and the concept is enshrined in the Latin phrase Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad infernos (For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell.)

A fact finding visit to the jovial and kindly proprietor of the said garage put my mind at rest: the developers had not made him a good enough offer, so he wasn’t selling. Our air space was safe for the moment until a more generous developer came along.

Moral of this story? Wherever you are in the world, you just don’t know what life’s going to bring.

 

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