Kawakawa's former top cop is used to taking on criminals - but next month Northlanders will see how good he is at taking on competitors and the odd tarantula in a reality TV challenge.

Nathan Davis, sergeant in charge at Kawakawa station until 2013, is one of 16 contestants in the debut series of Survivor New Zealand which hits the screens on May 7.

The series is filmed in the jungle of Nicaragua and hosted by former Seven Sharp reporter Matt Chisholm.

Mr Davis, the first of the show's contestants to be publicly revealed, said it was a push from his wife that saw him audition last year.

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"It was my wife's idea to apply, but I had the final say. Those words were 'yes dear'," he said.

"When I was told that I was accepted, I was in a dream for days. I still can't believe I'm part of television history. What an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Mr Davis is sworn to secrecy over how he fared in the challenge but said he wasn't sure if his policing skills had helped him.

"What I would say is that my listening skills and ability to understand people by watching them definitely assisted. I also think being a member of the police helped as I was probably given trust almost by default."

Mr Davis is unlikely to have trouble in the physical challenges - he's well over 1.8m tall and solid to match - and if there are any food challenges the other competitors won't stand a chance.

When living in the Bay of Islands he cleaned up in every eating contest he entered, including the spaghetti-eating race at Russell's Birdman and the pie-eating challenge at Paihia's It Festival.

He also took out the heavyweight bout in the Fighting Cancer charity boxing tournament in Kerikeri in 2012.

Nor is he likely to be fazed by TV cameras - just last week he was the star of a viral police video in which he filmed himself singing about staying safe on the roads over Easter, to the tune of Earth, Wind and Fire's September. The clip was watched almost 150,000 times in its first 15 hours online.

Being a member of the police had made him used to being in the public eye, he said.

The normally fearless cop said the most dangerous thing he saw in the Nicaraguan jungle was a tarantula scurrying into a hole a few centimetres from his foot.

Mr Davis' father is from Kawakawa and many relatives still live in the area. He moved to Dannevirke in 2013 so his wife could be closer to her family in Hawke's Bay.

He is now the senior sergeant in charge of Tararua police.