Mike Douglass is a 21-year-old Department of Conservation worker based in Kerikeri who is keeping the campers happy on Urupukapuka Island, in the Bay of Islands, this summer. And yes, he cleans the long drops.

1. Lots of Kiwis are back in the office this week dreaming of being back at the beach. What does your work day look like?

I'm up at 7am usually. My girlfriend Bridget is a DoC worker too and we have a little house on the other side of the island. Yeah, it's beautiful. Pretty hard to beat. We start work about 8am and walk to the woolshed on the farm to get our tools or whatever we need for the campground for the day. Then we set the waterpumps, check the levels and set off around the island, checking tracks, talking to the campers. I try to chat to everyone to see what they've got planned for the day or what's going on, if there are any problems. You can be as busy as you like in this job and I like to be busy. We might have a break for an hour or two in the day and read a book. I'm reading a really boring one about jetfighters but I feel like I've got to finish it. Then we'll work again and be home for dinner about 8pm.

2. This is an idyllic island - and you get to live and work with your girlfriend. Does DoC encourage that?

We met on the trainee ranger programme in Nelson so it was pretty handy. DoC's one of the only organisations where they don't exactly encourage couples but they allow you to work in the same office. One can't be in charge of the other one though, which is probably a good thing.


3. Has the Kiwi campsite changed much, do you think?

You can only get here by boat so that cuts things down a bit but people are still pretty well set up. Some people come for three weeks or a month so they'll have gas fridges and flash barbecues and bigger boats. Some people have got solar panels. When I went camping with my parents we only had a little tramping tent so anything you can stand up in is a bit flash I reckon.

4. Did you grow up loving the outdoors?

I'm from Motueka and my dad was into hunting and fishing and we'd go together on overnight trips and that. I was an only child - a lonely only - only not really lonely. I got pretty good at talking to adults partly because they are the only people that are around. They say you can go either way - talk to adults or have a crazy imagination. I grew up fast I think.

5. Did you always want a job with DoC?

My parents had friends who worked in DoC and I'd done a lot of volunteering since I was 12 or 13. I just liked getting outside and, to be honest, killing things. We had a group called the Rat Trappers and we'd make rat tunnels to put traps in.

6. I guess you didn't do it for the money?

Nah, not really. You make enough to survive. It's all you really need and I can still save a little bit of money. We don't have flash toys or stuff. Eat pretty simply. I've eaten the same lunch for the last three years - ham, cheese and chutney on the cheapest bread at the supermarket.


7. Did you expect to end up at the top of the North Island?

That was the biggest surprise of the job probably. I'm used to alpine environments and I'd love to get somewhere there's a few mountains. I really miss deer hunting and I haven't got dogs up here for pig hunting. It's quiet in the mountains. Still. It just seems cleaner. Waking up in the bush in a tent in an alpine environment is pretty special. And you can see everything up on the tops.

8. Do the young campers here give you any gyp?

Some people give you a bit of lip if you're asking them to quieten down or whatever, but I don't like to stereotype younger people because there are a lot that are really great and there are also groups of older people who stay up and drink and talk loudly. Often that's all it is, talking, but when you're living so close to your neighbours it can sound a lot louder.

9. You're only 21 - shouldn't you be out partying yourself?

I'm not a real social person. I find it really awkward in personal social situations. I don't like going to clubs and stuff and I was never your quintessential teenager. I can talk to people here because it's my job and when you're with people every day for a few weeks you really get to know them.

10. What's the most absurd thing that's happened to you here?

Maybe I shouldn't say because it's not supposed to happen. But me and one of the guys were pumping out a pee tank. The compost from the toilets has to be kept dry so you separate out the pee. We were up the hill pumping it around the trees and things and the pump got a big air bubble in it. This other guy thought he would prime it by undoing the cap which is what you're not supposed to do. You've got 60m of hose full of piss and we heard this gurgling noise so I stepped back and he leaned forward to see what it was and he got this huge spray. There's a lot of pressure in a hose that size. He was straight into the sea.

11. Will you head overseas eventually?

I don't have any aspirations to go overseas. Why would you when you still have the rest of your own country to see? Bridget and I have done a few trips. We saved up a bit of money and bought a flash big tent and an inflatable bed so I'm a glamper now too. But I've timed it: we can get everything out of the truck and set up in half an hour.

12. Did you celebrate Christmas Day on the island?

We took the day off, mostly. Did a bit of work in the morning then had lunch with the campers. Pretty low key. My 21st? I didn't do anything for that. Didn't tell my flatmates until three weeks later. I'm not really into celebrating myself.