The dream job in Haast that hardly anyone wanted is now in demand

10:10 am on 3 November 2022

By Andrea Vance of Stuff

Landsborough River valley and wilderness area on the West Coast

Landsborough River valley and wilderness area. Photo: Supplied / DOC

It was the job that had it all - except for candidates. Now more than 1300 jobseekers from all over the world have put their hands up to protect wildlife on the South Island's wild West Coast.

Last month, Stuff revealed the Department of Conservation (DOC) was struggling to attract people to its $90,000 a year biodiversity supervisor role, based in the remote town of Haast.

The story went global and queries have poured in from as far afield as Syria, Vietnam and Sweden.

When applications closed on Tuesday, 1383 CVs from 26 countries had flooded in.

For some context, recent TradeMe data showed 700 people applying for a role at a Kmart store was one of the most applied for jobs in New Zealand.

After originally only getting interest from three people, South Westland Operations Manager Wayne Costello went public with his search and extended the deadline by three weeks.

The drawcard was the region's lush rainforests, glaciers and towering mountains - and the chance to care for some of the world's rarest creatures.

On the western edge of Mount Aspiring National Park, it has the same world heritage status as the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon.

But Costello feared the region's isolation was a drawback - the town has just 200 residents, the nearest supermarket is a two-hour drive away and the closest hospital is four hours by car.

Following Stuff's story, the job was reported on by The Guardian, Taipei Times, Al-Arabiya News and New York Post.

Costello's interview with Agence France Press was translated into Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German.

As a result, applications have come from Finland, the UK, Colombia, Brazil, India, Ireland, the US, Dominican Republic, South Africa and Paraguay, as well as New Zealand and Australia.

The record number of queries has brought a fresh set of problems. Some overseas publications used online translation tools, which weren't foolproof.

The translation of the story in Badischer Zeitung, a regional newspaper in Southern Germany, said the job was for a "future Haast Kiwi Commissioner of the National Park" and said: "The main focus at this site is on saving New Zealand's rarest kiwifruit species, the Haast's kiwi."

Haast tokoeka are one of New Zealand's rarest kiwi. There is small breeding population at Orokonui, which is also a creche for captive-reared young tokoeka before they're released in the wild. Haast tokoeka have long shaggy feathers.

Haast tokoeka kiwi is one of New Zealand's rarest. There is small breeding population at Orokonui. Photo: Orokonui Ecosanctaury

And only a fraction of aspirants are eligible for a work visa.

DOC staff have whittled the hopefuls down to 40 and are now making a shortlist.

The successful candidate will be put to work monitoring 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, tawaki, or Fiordland crested penguin, the third-rarest species in the world, and native lizards.

Landsborough Valley is a stronghold of mōhua, a tiny forest bird brought from the brink of extinction.

The population from a little over a dozen, now numbers over 400. Duties also include looking after fur seals, species surveys, and predator control.

DOC described the job as an "extremely special place to live, surrounded by mountains and ocean, with endless activities for an outdoor enthusiast."

Downtime could be filled with tramping, jetboating, salt and freshwater diving, kayaking, fly and deep-sea fishing, hunting and exploring national parks to the south, north and east.

*This story was originally published on Stuff