Kiwi dream job awaits hospitable volunteers
02 Feb 2010
Situation vacant: Caretaker required for remote New Zealand island, great climate - no pay but job comes with free house, stunning scenery and an idyllic lifestyle.
It may sound like fantasy but New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) has just listed a real-life dream job.
DOC is looking for a willing volunteer or two to look after a pristine conservation reserve on an island off the sunny northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.
There’s work to do but d’Urville Island’s location in the Marlborough Sounds - a region noted for its scenic beauty, and abundance of bird and marine life - comes with the tag "a slice of paradise".
Sympathetic to conservation
After three years looking after Moawhitu Reserve, retirees Brenda Hatwell and Bernie Coggan have moved on to a new adventure, so DOC is looking for the "right" person to take on the role of caretaker and hut warden.
The job comes with a large four-bedroom house above Greville Harbour and close to a freshwater lake, and Picton-based DOC community relations programme manager Robin Cox says the role is a mix of caretaking and handyman work along with hut warden duties.
"Ideally we would like someone who is sympathetic to conservation, a handy person - to keep the place going, with the ability to get on with people. Possibly a retired person or a couple," Cox said.
The reserve area has a magnificent beach, a lake, several bays and a large area of mature forest.
It was once farmed, but the land is now being encouraged to revert to native bush adding to d'Urville Island Reserve.
D’Urville is New Zealand’s eighth largest island, and the 16,400-hectare island is steeped in history, untouched beauty and prolific wildlife.
It’s not too quiet though because visitors to the island can expect a dawn chorus loud enough to wake the deepest sleeper. D’Urville Island is possum-free so the native bush is alive with New Zealand songbirds tui and bellbirds, and other birds such as robins, weka and kaka.
The surrounding sea is just as populated, with dolphins, seals, seabirds and plenty of fish. Numerous tracks wind through rainforest to waterfalls, river pools and huge views. Mountain bikes are welcome.
There is limited accommodation - so never too many people - and it is only accessible by water or air.
The island was named after French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville (1790 - 1842) who discovered the island on the second of three voyages to New Zealand.
D’Urville, a botanist and linguist, first visited New Zealand on the Coquille in 1824, and returned in 1826 as the commander of the Astrolabe. The Astrolabe spent three months charting the northern shores of the South Island, discovering d’Urville Island and nearby French Pass (Passe des Francais) in the process.
Caretaker responsibilities include looking after the island’s airstrip. DOC is charged with maintaining the airstrip which is used free-of-charge by adjoining land owners. Other planes can use the strip for a small fee.
"We need to keep the grass alongside the strip low so planes can land, and taxi off the runway and park safely," Cox said.
The department would also like to encourage more public use of the caretaker accommodation which has good, solid facilities.
"We envisage a caretaker who will be happy to share the house with visitors. There is already a camping ground here which is not used very much - it is quite exposed so to have this house as a base where trampers or hunters can come and use would be even better," said Cox.
For the meantime, an ex-d’Urville island resident has taken on a short-term caretaking role.
Chris Brown, who is a pilot, says his first priority is to get the airstrip safe and fully useable.
"Once we get the strip up to a good standard again, and people know it is a safe and accommodating area with the improved accommodation, this will result in more people being able to appreciate the unique environment at d'Urville Island," Brown said.
DOC says the caretaker position hasn’t been formally advertised but news of the job is being spread by word of mouth.
All expressions of interest should be directed to DOC’s Picton office. Applications from international candidates would be subject to New Zealand immigration requirements.
Background: Marlborough Sounds
D’Urville Island lies at the top of the spectacular Marlborough Sounds - a vast wilderness area of fiords, tranquil sandy beaches, and virgin native forests inhabited by prolific marine and bird life, and few people.
Marlborough Sounds is a favourite New Zealand holiday adventure destination for trekking, twitching, swimming with dolphins, fishing, kayaking, sailing and other water sports.
The plains and hills inland from the Sounds form one of New Zealand's top wine-growing areas. Marlborough is famed, in particular, for internationally award-winning sauvignon blanc wines.
It's also in New Zealand's sunniest region - sitting between the towns of Nelson and Blenheim which traditionally vie for the title of New Zealand's sunshine capital. Nelson holds the 2009 title.
Nelson is New Zealand's sunshine capital
Classic New Zealand wine trail
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