Ned Pukeroa's body may have given up maintaining everything that defines Morningside School after three decades but staff reckon he'll definitely "poke his nose" around after retirement.
The 70-year-old will on Tuesday next week say haere ra to staff and students after 30 years as the school caretaker but fortunately for him and unfortunately for his work colleagues, he won't go far.
He lives just across the road from the school - something he still did back then which in part helped him get the job.
"He'll poke his nose around... won't be able to help himself," joked a colleague, referring to his life post-retirement.
Born and bred in Pawarenga, west of Okaihau, Pukeroa worked at the then Northland Dairy Company on lower Tarewa Rd as a general hand for 23 years until he injured his back.
"I lived next to the school and knew the principal Colin Davidson and he asked me what I was going those days and I told him I was on ACC. He asked whether he wanted to have a crack at a job as the caretaker and I said I'd give it a shot," he recalled.
"Initially I thought I'd go day by day but 30 years later, I am still here but time has whipped through."
Banter with staff and students is something he says he'll miss the most.
Pukeroa vividly remembers many anecdotes but is reticent to share all.
Students, he says, have given him mostly respect although there are a few "larrakins" who'll crack jokes every now and then.
"We have a rhododendron plant that blooms and I was looking at it one day with two boys and they asked 'how long have you been here Mr Pukeroa' and after I told them how long, they said when I die, they'll bury me under that tree," he said, laughing uproaringly.
Being at the school that long, Pukeroa comes across a few parents who themselves attended the school and now bring their children there.
After Tuesday, he plans to get into his drumming and dreams of joining a band one day.
"There's never been any harsh words spoken here. There's always been friendly banter and that's what I'll miss the most. A couple of kids the other day grabbed my legs and said 'Mr Pukeroa we're sad you're leaving'.
School principal David Prchal said Pukeroa has been an asset who always went the extra mile in order to keep the grounds and other facilities clean and tidy.
"The school is also fortunate that he's been an on-site and off-site security during school holidays and outside of school hours and that has helped keep things like graffiti and tagging away."
Prchal said the school would likely tap into Pukeroa's knowledge of where things were and how to carry out tasks after his retirement.