‘I could kill a plastic plant’: Unlikely leader up for award
If you want someone to build you a vibrant community garden, John Higgins is your man - just don't ask him to look after any of your plants.
"My wife is the green thumb, she can make anything grow," he said.
"I can kill a plastic plant, but I can build virtually anything."
Together, husband and wife team John and Christine Higgins have helped build up the South Coffs Community Gardens from an empty paddock at Boambee East Reserve, to a vibrant hive of activity filled with fragrant flowers and delicious vegetables.
This year Mr Higgins' passionate dedication to the development of the gardens has been recognised with an Australia Day award nomination - an accolade met with "amazement" from the former industrial arts teacher.
"I am honoured to get that sort of accolade and it is very humbling," he said.
While it is not uncommon to see Mr Higgins working away on the tractor or building something for the members, it is his work behind the scenes which possibly had the greatest impact.
In his time as treasurer and president, he has secured almost $100,000 in grants including another $15,000 from the State Government for increasing the garden's composting capacity just this week.
The money has gone toward everything from building a pavilion with solar-powered facilities, a composting zone and the beautiful "Hanging Gardens of Boambylon".
And beyond the the planter boxes and vegetables an inclusive community space has been created and fostered, a vision from the early stages of development.
Mr Higgins has helped create an asset to the city which provides not only opportunities for people to come together and enjoy a pleasant and productive pastime, but a place to learn, to share and to pass on their knowledge to the wider community.
He said the enthusiasm of the members and a core group of "stalwarts" who "get more out of it than just gardening" has been the secret to its success, with the famous morning tea at the centre.
"We decided to make this a social thing and every morning at 10am we have a morning tea and anybody is welcome."
"It's all about the comradeship."
This week The Coffs Coast Advocate is profiling each of Coffs Harbour's Australia Day Award nominees ahead of the awards ceremony on January 26.