Beautiful Awards 2023 winners announced at Parliament House

Iconic Kiwi charity Keep New Zealand Beautiful have announced the winners of their Beautiful Awards 2023, including New Zealand’s most beautiful towns and most beautiful cities.

The Beautiful Awards are Aotearoa’s longest standing environmental awards. For over five decades they have inspired, recognised and celebrated the people and places who are putting in the mahi to Keep New Zealand Beautiful.

Keep New Zealand Beautiful CEO Heather Saunderson says: “This year we asked New Zealanders across the country to nominate the people, projects and places that they believe illustrate the height of environmental excellence in Aotearoa. This was an opportunity for communities to rally together and to shine a light on the amazing climate, conservation and environmental education projects that have taken place across Aotearoa in the past year.

“Public nominations were one of the criteria for the selection of our Awards recipients and finalists, so it was fantastic to see the overwhelming passion Kiwis have for the towns and cities they live in, the places they enjoy and the unsung environmental heroes who unite the community together.

“Through the Beautiful Awards we’re able to celebrate the efforts of local councils as well as those made by community groups, schools and individuals who are all striving to maintain and improve New Zealand’s environment. This collective contribution is key to maintaining the biodiversity of Aotearoa and to creating a waste and climate conscious future for the next generations of Tidy Kiwis.”

The Awards were announced at the Beautiful Ball at Parliament House, Wellington with nearly 100 guests in attendance, including local council representatives and newly elected MPs.

Towns & Cities Awards

This category provides the opportunity for New Zealanders to recognise and celebrate their town or city, and to acknowledge the positive actions their council and communities have taken to protect and enhance the local environment. As one of this year’s judges, Ms Saunderson visited each of the Towns & Cities Award finalists, meeting with council staff and local representatives to witness first-hand all of their environmental and sustainability efforts.

Ms Saunderson says, “The winners of these prestigious awards have illustrated a commitment to the environment through the implementation of actions such as litter prevention/waste minimisation initiatives, community beautification and recycling projects. 

“Whilst all of the finalists demonstrated significant achievements in the sustainability space, the winners of the Towns & Cities Awards illustrated an exceptionally strong community spirit and have created an environment that other towns and cities would aspire to.”

Each award is divided into urban area populations, which are statistically defined and are classified by the size of their resident population. 

Most Beautiful Tiny Town (defined as an urban area 999 residents or less).

This is the first time the Awards have celebrated the Tiny Towns of New Zealand, those with populations less than 999 residents. 

Ms Saunderson says “We received a number of nominations for some of New Zealand’s smallest towns and we wanted to give them an opportunity to be recognised for the hard work they do.”

The finalists for the Most Beautiful Tiny Town were:

  • – Awanui
  • – Leigh

The winner of this award is Awanui.

Ms Saunderson commended the Te Hiku Revitalisation project for reinvigorating the Tiny Town not only for its local residents but also for the many visitors it receives as the ‘Nexus to the North’. The beautification projects, which include mural paintings, carvings and the upgrade of many local facilities and attractions highlight the pride the community takes in its heritage and local environment. 

Most Beautiful Small Town (defined as a small urban area 1,000 – 9,999 residents).

The finalists for the Most Beautiful Small Town Award were:

  • – Arrowtown
  • – Tūrangi

The winner of this award is Arrowtown.

Ms Saunderson says Arrowtown boasts an unwavering vibrancy of community that leans beautifully into its heritage. The whole community got behind the town’s submission for Most Beautiful Small Town with a huge number of nominations received from local residents. It was admirable how the town is re-establishing self-sufficiency by growing and living off their own produce and focusing on sustainability through initiatives such as their Single Use Cup Free Arrowtown. 

Most Beautiful Large Town (defined as a medium urban area 10,000 – 29,999 residents).

The finalists for the Most Beautiful Large Town Award were:

  • – Taupō 
  • – Whakatāne

Both towns were finalists at the Beautiful Awards 2021, with Taupō taking out the title. Whakatāne was the 2021 Supreme Towns & Cities Award winner. 

The winner of this award is Whakatāne.

Ms Saunderson noted that within Whakatāne, plans are community-led and engagement with iwi is key. 

There’s a lot going on in the environment space in Whakatāne with a new tree strategy aiming to increase canopy cover by 20% over the next 20 years, a new wetland ‘sponge park’ to help local streams recover from weed infestations, and a plan to rejuvenate nearby wetlands and restore the health of the lagoon. Additionally, there’s a community-led focus on building up less affluent areas, making sure that everyone in the town prospers. Examples include the re-building of the local skate park to provide a gathering place for youth, a community garden for anyone to enjoy, and programmes aimed at engaging with the elderly to help rest-home residents get out and about safely.

Most Beautiful Small City (defined as a large urban area 30,000 – 99,999 residents). This year there was a North Island, West Coast battle for the title.

The finalists for the Most Beautiful Small City Award were:

  • – Whanganui
  • – New Plymouth

The winner of this award is New Plymouth.

New Plymouth have made huge progress with their environmental initiatives over the past year thanks to an engaged and passionate community and the council actively working with local iwi to provide input into environmental changes. Among the ventures, the city is undertaking a large planting, bringing back native species not seen in the area for over 400 years. New Plymouth is aiming to make the Airport a gateway to the region, with a solar farm and off-grid capability. The local Upcycler Centre diverts 5.5 tonnes of incoming waste from landfill and another 1500 tonnes of food waste annually, while ongoing Ag-recovery efforts have led to local solutions, local facilities and job opportunities.

Most Beautiful Large City (defined as a major urban area of 100,000 or more residents).

The finalists for Most Beautiful Large City Award were:

  • – Tauranga
  • – Christchurch

The winner for this award is Tauranga.

Tauranga has taken huge strides into investing in itself, and there’s a lot of passion about the local environment. The city now revolves much of it’s thinking around three main pillars: making it a vibrant and inclusive city, and a city which celebrates the environment. Beautification efforts and campaigns, increased cycleways and walkways, and cultural storytelling in conjunction with iwi are making the city even more desirable to live in. Tauranga also has a large community environmental fund and is championing trees and shade to be part of the city’s infrastructure, with tens of thousands of trees planted and over 11,000 hectares of wetlands restored.

The Beautiful Awards Supreme Towns & Cities Award, proudly sponsored by Resene.

The winner of the Supreme Towns & Cities Award is the judge’s top pick from all of the finalists in the Towns & Cities Award category. 

“This is always a very hard award to judge, and this year was no exception,” said Ms Saunderson. “The Towns & Cities Award submissions were of an extremely high standard, and after visiting each of them I was given great insight into the amazing environmental initiatives that have taken place over the last 12 months.”

The winner for this award is Taupō

“Out of all the towns and cities I visited, Taupō ranked amongst the highest for the many climate conscious initiatives it undertakes, excelling across every other criteria, making it the clear winner of the Supreme Award,” said Ms Saunderson. 

Of particular note were: 

  • – Taupō’s Kai Rescue Programme which works to reduce food waste by redistributing food from local cafes and supermarkets into pockets of the community in need.
  • – Taupō’s regular community clean up events which aim to tackle litter and bring the community together.
  • – The implementation of their Downstream Defenders which aims to reduce waste into beautiful Lake Taupō.
  • – Addressing waste end to end by encouraging the community to Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle.  And their sustainably transport schemes which include e-bikes and hybrid cars for council workers. 

Taupo will receive, as part of the Resene awards sponsorship, a mural painted in their town by a local artist up to the value of $10,000.

Other Awards celebrated at the Beautiful Awards were:

Individual Awards  

The Young Legend Award honours three outstanding volunteers who are aged under 18 years (as of 21 August 2023). These exceptional individuals have demonstrated remarkable leadership and outreach in their community through work in one or more of the following areas; litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling promotion, community beautification.

Young Legend Award Recipients:

  • – Luca and Harley Evans, Auckland
  • – Nate Wilbourne, Nelson
  • – Tyson, Zac and Eli Ogle-Turner, Picton

The Tidy Kiwi Award recognises and rewards individuals aged over 18 years (as of 21 August 2023) who have distinguished themselves as truly extraordinary and who serve as an inspiration to us all. This award honours outstanding and exceptional leadership in litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling and beautification activities.

Tidy Kiwi Award Recipients:

  • – Antonia Wood, Dunedin
  • – Isaac Adams, Wellington
  • – Karen Lee, Whangārei

Community Awards

The Sustainable Schools Award honours three ECE’s, schools or tertiary institutions for commitment and practical action to implement sustainable practices and environmental projects, which enhance the school and/or community. It also rewards schools that have placed a high importance on educating the next generation of Tidy Kiwis in sustainability by engaging with at least one of Keep New Zealand Beautiful’s environmental education programmes.

Sustainable Schools Award Recipients:

  • – Nelson Intermediate School, Nelson
  • – Waiheke High School, Auckland
  • – Waihi Beach School, Waihi

The Community Group Award recognises and honours a not-for-profit community group that contributes to enhancing the environmental and social aspects of their region and shows a strong sense of community spirit.

Community Group Award Winner:

  • – Riverlution, Christchurch

Keep Richmond Beautiful was awarded an Environmental Service Award for their continued hard work commitment as a Keep New Zealand Beautiful Community Branch.

Places Awards  

The Best Loo Award recognises the best public toilet in the country. Judges take into consideration the location, the facilities, cleanliness, interior, exterior and the surrounding environment of the toilets.

Best Loo Award Winner:

  • – Okere Falls Scenic Reserve Wharepaku, Rotorua

The Best Street Award, proudly sponsored by Resene, recognises and celebrates a street in New Zealand that clearly stands out for its beauty, cleanliness, plantings and sense of community pride.

Best Street Award Winner

  • – Buckingham Street, Arrowtown

The Kiwis’ Choice Award, proudly sponsored by Resene, celebrates Kiwis’ favourite public spot in New Zealand, whether that be a beach, a park, a look out, a waterfall, a lake or a walking track. If it is a spot that is open to the public then it is eligible to be nominated to win this award.

Kiwi’s Choice Award Winner

  • – Te Ātea, Taupō

Videos of the Beautiful Award winners and recipients can be viewed on the Keep New Zealand Beautiful YouTube channel.

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