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For Waitati woman Valerie Fay, volunteering with plants and animals is a passion. She ''just can't help [herself]''.
The 67-year-old Orokonui Ecosanctuary volunteer was nationally recognised by the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network on Friday at the Otago Museum.
She won the individual award for plant conservation and was the only winner from Dunedin.
The award follows her 10-plus years' dedication to native plants, especially the ecosanctuary's rare plants garden.
''Plants and animals have been my passion since I was a small child,'' Mrs Fay said.
''It's really good.''
The former plant propagator and vet nurse spends almost two days a week volunteering at the sanctuary, where she is responsible for between 15 and 30 different volunteers at any given time.
Mrs Fay said receiving the award was humbling.
''I always get embarrassed [with] things like this,'' she said.
''There's a lot of other people that have helped me.''
She was particularly proud of planting and nurturing a ''hairy grass'' called Simplicia laxa, which was threatened and tough to grow.
NZPCN awards convener Melissa Hutchinson said Mrs Fay was an ''outstanding volunteer''.
''She has been a hard-working and dedicated leader of the volunteer crew that has planted thousands of native ... and threatened plants ... at the sanctuary.''
Clyde Primary School won the schools award for its work with plantings along the Millennium Track between Clyde and Alexandra.
• New Zealand Conservation Week started yesterday and runs until Sunday.
The theme this year is ''healthy nature, healthy people''.
Events planned. -
Today: Help save Queenstown's native birds, 5.30pm-6.30pm, Kiwi Birdlife Park, Queenstown.
Tomorrow: Our iconic reptile the tuatara, 6pm, Oamaru Public Library, Oamaru.
Saturday: Flagstaff Haircut, 9am, Pineapple Track on Flagstaff-Whare Flat Rd, Dunedin.
Saturday: Arrowtown Scout Group, wilding conifer control, 9.30am-12.30pm, at top of Tobins Track, Arrowtown.
All week: See flowers that fly (moths and butterflies habitat), by appointment, at Earthlore, Owaka.