The body of Melissa Ann Neale was recovered from Cashel Mall, where she was eating lunch with her mother moments before the earthquake devastated Christchurch.
Melissa, 41, a twin, was identified through personal belongings recovered from her body.
Brother-in-law Campbell Read said Melissa had a small garden behind her cottage in Wellington's Island Bay.
"That was her haven."
He said she was also "mad keen" about her dog, Charlie.
"She was a much-loved auntie to her nieces and nephew."
Lisa Green counted Melissa as a "very, very close friend".
She said Melissa loved to travel and enjoyed gourmet food.
"All her friends are devastated. She is a true friend... it sounds a cliche... She will leave a big hole in the future. We don't have her to call for her input."
Penny Lewis, another friend of Melissa, said: "She had lots of friends all over the country."
Ms Lewis described Melissa as a conscientious worker who loved to travel and spent several years working on superyachts.