Get paid to work in one of the world's most beautiful places
Written by Andrea Vance for Stuff Newspaper New Zealand -
"Your daily commute might involve a jet boat or helicopter ride. And your direct reports would include some of the world's rarest creatures. It’s a dream job – patrolling some of the world’s most spectacular wilderness, and caring for kiwi, penguins and lizards on the front line of extinction.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is on the hunt for a biodiversity supervisor in Haast, on the western edge of Mount Aspiring National Park in the South Island of New Zealand.
But in a nation-wide labor market shortage, there have been just three applicants so far for the role, based in New Zealand’s most remote town. DOC are now casting the net wider.
“It's working in one of the most amazing natural environments that the country has got to offer,” said Wayne Costello, Operations Manager for DOC in South Westland. “It’s just spectacular. But it's not for everyone. You’d have to be self-reliant and be able to work in the outdoors. If you’re interested in opera and theatre, it’s probably not for you.”
With lush rainforests, glaciers and towering mountains, the region has the same United Nations World Heritage status as the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon.
With only about 200 residents at Haast Township, candidates should relish their own company. The nearest supermarket is two hours away, and the closest hospital, a four-hour drive to Greymouth. Cellphone coverage is a recent development, but service is patchy.
Housing is affordable compared with other regions. Westland district had a median price of $405,475 (US$231,000) in June 2022, but properties are hard to come by.
”The locals are wonderfully friendly,” Costello said. “There are some of New Zealand's original families, who pioneered farming and fishing down in that part of the world. They're really lovely.”
And there’s plenty to occupy your downtime: tramping, jetboating, salt and freshwater diving, kayaking, fly and deep-sea fishing, hunting and national parks to the south, north and east.
And the true drawcard is the work. The successful applicant will lead a team of four protecting endangered and vulnerable native species in South Westland – some of the Earth’s scarcest wildlife.
Under their care will be the Haast tokoeka kiwi – of which there are only about 500 in the world.
Also, the tawaki, or Fiordland crested penguin, the third-rarest species in the world.
Landsborough Valley is a stronghold of the Yellowhead, the mōhua, a tiny forest bird brought from the brink of extinction. The population, once as low as just over a dozen, now numbers over 400.
Duties also include fur seal monitoring, lizard surveys, and predator control.
“The prime focus is bringing the Haast tokoeka Kiwi back from the brink,” Costello said. “There's also wildlife responses, with birds like the Fiordland Crested Penguin, sometimes needing help when there's been an injury or something like that.
We're also doing some outstanding work with lizards: cascade geckos, and skinks, which are just stunning.”
The transport fleet is also more thrilling than most jobs. “They do quite a bit of helicopter work because the country is so rugged and inaccessible,” he said. “To get to the Kiwi, you often have to be helicoptered to site, and we own our own jet boat.”
The job pays between $72,610 (US$41,300) and $92,780 (US$53,000) depending on experience. The candidate should have experience with managing a team, and possess strong navigation, map reading, and GPS skills.
“We're looking for good team players, people who like working with other people and be part of a bigger team. But you also have to be reasonably independent and have lots of initiative – to not only think outside of the square in terms of getting work done in that environment, but also just to maintain yourself outside of work.”
New Zealand experience is preferred – but not essential".
Update November 3
In one short week, the applications have gone from 3 to 1300! Read all about it here.