Gaileen Ross retires this month after raising more than 30,000 plants for the Tomahawk and Smaills Beach coastal area.
The Tomahawk Smaills Beachcare Trust celebrates its 10th birthday this year, but the project started in early 2000 with some keen volunteers.
Ms Ross was one of those volunteers and was made nursery manager when the charitable trust was formed in 2008.
She has seen the coastal area go from sandy unused land to an expanse of mature native plants.
In her earlier life, Ms Ross had worked in a range of jobs before completing a horticulture course in her 50s.
But she said this was where she had found her “passion”, and she had enjoyed being able to do it ever since.
The 69-year-old said not only was she lucky to have had a job she loved doing, but she also appreciated the great people she had been able to work with.
“I have been really lucky to work with so many lovely people and it’s so wonderful how much the community has got behind it.”
Tomahawk Smaills Beachcare Trust chairwoman Gina Huakau said although she was excited to see Ms Ross put energy into her own life, she was sad to see her go.
Ms Huakau said Ms Ross’ depth of knowledge was amazing and was a lot more than anyone could find in a textbook.
“She knows her craft and profession incredibly well and her knowledge for what she does and the local area has been a huge benefit for us.”
Ms Huakau said Ms Ross’ role as manager of the nursery went beyond growing and planting.
She had been incredibly devoted to growing plants right from seeds, as well as dealing with issues when things did not always go to plan, Ms Huakau said.
“She [Ms Ross] hasn’t just done stuff with plants; her job has been so much more than that.
“By organising the successful planting days, she has brought people together and created relationships.”
Ms Ross said she planned to travel around New Zealand and overseas in her retirement.
There will be a farewell planting and barbecue for Ms Ross at the Tomahawk Smaills Beach Reserve nursery on April 22. The public are welcome.