While most people squirm at the mere sight of creepy crawlies, one Wellington man thrives.
Pest control technician Darren Labrum is fearless, and he’s ready to tackle anything that crosses his path.
He’s willing to get up close and personal with them all — from mice, to spiders, to roaches — even despite being stung by wasps, and coming face to face with rats.
On Labrum’s first day on the job, he went out on his own to some properties in South Auckland which had two problems: cockroaches and mice.
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When he arrived back at the office, his boss asked him about his day.
“I said, ‘I really enjoyed it’ — because I genuinely did enjoy it — and he goes, ‘You’ll be in it for life’. And, well, 25 years later.”
Labrum now runs his business, Wellington Pest Management, from his Karori home.
Launched in 2003, he now employs three pest control technicians as the list of jobs kept growing. The most significant contract is Wellington Airport.
The hot housing market had helped business, as had the change in health and safety laws, Labrum said.
“We are getting more and more wood borer work because people are more worried about the investment in their homes. If their homes are worth a million bucks, they are maintaining it and spending the money,” he said.
“[Also] back in the day, a takeaway bar could just chuck a bit of rat bait around and that’d be enough, now they’ve got to have an auditable, orderable programme, and regular checks.”
On top of that, Generation X (those born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s) also had a significant impact on business, he said.
“As a western society, we are paying people to do things more often, so people used to go and paint the fence, now you get a painter to do it.
“It’s the I’ll-go-and-earn-$50-an-hour-and-pay-someone-$40 attitude.”
Labrum said during his career he had been in some interesting situations. During a visit to an Auckland Indian restaurant, the owner waved a spatula under the oven to scare cockroaches out.
“When all the cockroaches came out, he put the spatula back in the curry.
“Another time, I was going up into a man hole and they had a rat problem, and usually the rats scarper when they see you, but this dirty old male rat came walking towards me and I thought, you’re not suppose to do that, ‘Shoo’.
“But once he realised that I was bigger than him, he ran off, but he was ready to take me on.”
Labrum said the Government’s plan to eradicate pests by 2050 would “never happen”.
“As long as humans are here, we are supplying the pests with food, shelter, warmth, so we are providing them all the things they want, that’s why they live close to us…
“Unless they have some major technological breakthrough, with genetics or biological control or something like that, with the traditional methods like we have now there’s no chance,” he said.