Leaving while his knees are still good enough for fieldwork, Ngā Manu Nature Reserve manager Matu Booth is moving on.
After six years juggling conservation values, captive programmes, while also being in charge of a recreational site with visitors, Matu is looking forward to heading back to the bush, doing fieldwork while he still can.
Proud of keeping the focus on conservation, he said it's the efforts of volunteers that have made his time at Ngā Manu so rewarding.
"The volunteer numbers have increased immensely. We had about 15-20 when I first started whereas now we have as many as 60 active volunteers.
"Their efforts are equal to us having three or four more fulltime staff.
"Ngā Manu has so many facets - it's much more than just a conservation project and it's been heartening to see there is still a strong link back to the vision that Peter McKenzie had when he started Ngā Manu almost 50 years ago."
Matu said, although the wording around conservation has changed a lot since he started in conservation, and even throughout his time at Ngā Manu, he is glad they can still clearly identify what is important to the reserve.
"Some of the alliances have shifted and there are different players involved, but we can still clearly identify what is important to Ngā Manu.
"It's still about conservation and being involved in the DoC breed for release programmes which are part of our key goals."
Most proud of prioritising conservation projects which also educate the public, the Kiwi Night Encounter and partnership with Mahara Gallery are two highlights for Matu over the last six years.
"I think it's the conservation aspects of the programmes that really ring true for me.
"One that I have a deep affection for is the Kiwi Night Encounter and the education opportunity we have created with it.
"We could have easily got it wrong and had it much more like a show and tell.
"That would have lost that gravitas and the connection of what it's really about.
"For us it's really important that we actually tell the story of kiwi and their biology but also convey where we sit within the Captive Kiwi programme, making certain everyone was understanding that we are participating in a much bigger effort."
Recently retired trustee Jean Fleming said, "He set up the Kiwi Night Encounter on a whim, having sat in the enclosure after late feeding, thinking what a wonderful experience it was."
With a half-hour introduction in the visitors centre and then heading out to the enclosure, Matu said, "We go out and let nature take its course.
"That buzz of giving all the background and then going and comparing your notes with what you actually see, that's the very cornerstone of conservation or any sort of learning process."
Jean said during his time here, Matu has been the drive behind setting up teams of volunteers, completely revamped the pest control system and nocturnal house, brought breed for release programmes in such as the yellow-crowned kākāriki, green gecko and Whitaker skink breeding programme and has created connections with local artists to deliver art workshops and exhibitions that have played a key role in conservation education.
The recently launched project Dwellbeings is something Matu is 'stoked' with.
'It's a little bit different for us, it's a real attempt looking at other ways to tell that conservation story.
"It's not like the traditional pointing at a tree and looking at it and talking in Latin.
"This is trying to prompt curiosity in a different way and capture a different audience."
Moving on to do more field-based work, Matu said, "I'm looking to do some more field-based things again before I'm of an age and decrepitude where it's not as easy to.
"A lot of the issues, drivers and aspirations that were here when I arrived are still the same but I'm at the point where I've recognised that if I don't do some of that now, the opportunities become more difficult.
"I could have still continued here, there's a deep affection for Ngā Manu on my part and I have a good relationship with the board here but I'm rejuvenating a part of me which still needs to be fed."
The Ngā Manu Trust would like to acknowledge the significant contribution Matu has made through his hard work and absolute commitment to the reserve.
Trustee Grant Sullivan said, "He brought a caring approach to his role and operated in a very understated manner that was not about Matu but about the welfare of the reserve."
Chairwoman Pat Stuart said while they are sad to see him go, his conservation leadership and commitment to Ngā Manu has gained the confidence of key stakeholders in government agencies that will continue to benefit the reserve and make Ngā Manu an important contributor to the conservation of native fauna and flora, and an asset for Kāpiti.
Matu's last day is on January 28, with the recruitment process for his replacement currently under way.