Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Man hoping for 'world's best job'

Ben Southall
Mr Southall has already travelled the world raising money for charities

A Hampshire man is one of four British people shortlisted for "the best job in the world" - caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef on Hamilton Island.

Ben Southall, an adventurer from Petersfield, is one of 50 people hoping to land the 70,000-a-year post looking after the idyllic island in Australia.

The competition was set up by tourism managers in Queensland.

Voting is already under way, with the most popular hopeful getting a wildcard into the final 10.

The other nine finalists will be picked by the competition's board.

Interviews to find a winner are scheduled for 3 May, before the new island caretaker starts a six-month contract on 1 July.

If I win I'll be taking my girlfriend with me to come and soak up all that the islands have to offer
Ben Southall

Mr Southall currently has 190 votes, although a Taiwanese contestant is leading the way with 12,300 votes.

The other British contenders are Sarah Louise Lane, from London, Holly Smale, from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, and Douglas Stidolph, from Guildford, Surrey.

Mr Southall, who has already travelled the world on fundraising expeditions, said: "I'm flabbergasted to be honest.

"We just see where we go from here, but if I win I'll be taking my girlfriend with me to come and soak up all that the islands have to offer.

"It looks like this could be a crazy year.

Tonge Point on Whitsunday Island, Queensland
The view on the way to work is one of the perks of the job

"Money aside, the job itself would be fantastic.

"There is also the possibility of travelling around Australia and discovering another continent after the job ends.

"People can go and vote for me online and hopefully in a few weeks time it will come up trumps."

The final 10 people will be flown to Australia for the selection process.

The competition was set up by tourism managers.

More than 34,000 people applied, with each applicant submitting a one-minute video to sell themselves.

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