Wairarapa soil conservator Stan Braaksma is hanging up his boots and retiring from the Greater Wellington Regional council after 44 years.
The soil conservator is known for his dedication to planting anti-erosion trees and improving the environment.
Stan has been described as a ‘walking encyclopaedia of trees and soil types’ and was among the first to identify and initiate planting of Eucalyptus trees in the fight against erosion, alongside other species.
“I’ve been given really good freedom to be able to innovate and experiment in the region, giving me a lot of experience with a number of tree species,” he said.
“I’ve gone on to get a huge amount of skills in forestry.
“I am just over-awed with the fact I’ve always been in an organisation that’s quite dynamic around change.
“There’s been a change of climate through the years, which means land management has had a huge role to play.”
Well respected among his peers, many of his colleagues dressed up as Stan at last year’s Christmas party as a homage to his professionalism and camaraderie on the job.
Stan has also served as a regional council representative and finalist judge since 2002 at the Ballance Farm Environment Awards
Outside work he has played a big part in outdoor sporting events in the community for years, both participating and volunteering.
A competitive football player until the age of 59, Stan intends to keep active post-retirement while also maintaining farm forestry and consultancy work.
Last year Stan and his wife also cycled from Cape Reinga to Bluff as part of the Aotearoa Challenge.
He is part of several clubs in Wairarapa, including the Masterton Cycling Club and Wairarapa Multi Sports Club.
An indication of he and wife Jenny’s valuable contribution is that they have run the barbecue for the Wairarapa Multi Sports Club at the Breadcraft Kids triathlon series and have volunteered since their children participated at one of the first events 30 years ago.
Stan was formally farewelled in Masterton on Wednesday, but he will officially hang up his land management adviser hat next Friday.
Stan will be joined in retirement by Jenny, who leaves her role as head teacher from York St Kindergarten on the same day.
He said they were “looking forward to taking the motorhome out and exploring New Zealand, wherever it takes us”, and spending more time with their grandchildren, affectionately known as “gremlins”.