Kylie Robbins, police officer, ambulance driver, volunteer firefighter, rescue-boat skipper and air rescuer

When I arrive, unannounced, outside Great Barrier's small police station, constable Kylie Robbins emerges from the neighbouring house in a long multicoloured dress, two blonde children at her heels. Four year-old Ben is her son, the girl is the daughter of the island's only other cop.  I scramble to explain myself, expecting reticence and official policy lines about not talking to journalists.  "Come on in, mate" she says.  Then, sitting at her kitchen table: "What do you want to know?" 
Kylie, 36, grew up with her parents and two siblings in a one-room hut here on Great Barrier, just 88km northeast of New Zealand's largest city.  Hers was the original hippie childhood, remote, barefoot, no running water.  There was correspondence school into her teens and she learned about the bush, about fishing and growing produce.  After leaving the island at 16 she eventually found her way to police college and spent a decade working as an officer on the mainland.

"I always wanted to come back here," she says.  "This island has always had a big hold over me.  People who come here either love it or hate it, it polarises people.  But once this place touches your heart....."

A year ago she became the only other full-time police officer.  The job comes with a police house fitted with true Barrier luxuries - Internet access, Sky television and an endless power supply (there are no reticulated power, water or sewerage services on the island).  Her husband, Dennis, gave up his job to become a house dad while Kylie works a regular day shift and is on call around the clock every second week.  Oh, and Barrier cops automatically become volunteer firefighters and ambulance drivers - the police truck doubles as the island's sole ambulance.  They skipper the rescue boat and assist with air rescues.

"This place attracts very strong women.  I think they have to be.  The isolation is hard on relationships - nothing's easy over here.  There's the odd dizzy tart but they don't seem to last long. I love the lifestyle, I love the island and the community out here, even though they drive me nuts at times.  I have to live in this community, too.  So what I do to keep it safer is as much for me and my family as for them.  Island people don't report a lot of offending to the police.  They tend to sort stuff out themselves."

That said, there are locals she can call on for back up when necessary.  "There is very little big crime.  We get a lot of bullshit thefts of little things.  Most homes over here are unlocked all the time, including outs.  It is rewarding being a cop here.  It's where I wanted Ben to grow up.  It's still a very safe place for children, without peer pressure.  Nobody over here has the latest, greatest Nikes and the other kids don't want them.  There's no spacey parlour down the road."


Reproduced with permission from NEXT Magazine and Sue Hoffart - Subject to copyright in its entirety.
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