Finalists of New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Towns and Cities announced

Keep New Zealand Beautiful have announced the finalists of their Beautiful Awards 2021, including New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Towns and Most Beautiful Cities.

The Beautiful Awards are New Zealand’s longest-running sustainability awards and provide a benchmark for environmental excellence. Run annually since 1972, the Awards inspire, recognise and acknowledge those individuals, schools, community groups, towns and cities working passionately to Keep New Zealand Beautiful.

This year, the Most Beautiful Towns & Cities awards have been aligned with the urban area classifications used by Statistics New Zealand for statistical purposes: Most Beautiful Small Town (small urban area with 1,000 – 9,999 residents), Most Beautiful Large Town (medium urban area with 10,000 – 29,999 residents), Most Beautiful Small City (large urban area 30,000 – 99,999 residents) and Most Beautiful Large City (major urban area with 100,000 or more residents).

The two finalists in each of the four awards in the Towns & Cities category demonstrated in their submissions the sustainable and environmentally conscious action taken by council in the past 12 months across the following key areas: Litter Prevention and Waste Minimisation, Community Beautification, Recycling Projects, Sustainable Tourism and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

This year there will also be a Supreme Award for the Most Beautiful Towns & Cities category. The winner of the Supreme Award, which is proudly sponsored by Resene, will win a mural painted in their town or city by a local artist, valued at up to $10,000.

Keep New Zealand Beautiful CEO Heather Saunderson says: “The Beautiful Awards Towns & Cities category recognises and rewards local governments who’ve illustrated ambitious goals for environmental improvement over the past 12 months. This year we’ve been impressed with the commitment and innovation that councils have shown across beautification and waste minimisation initiatives, as well as the way in which they’ve tackled many of today’s environmental issues through their climate change strategies. Through the awards we’re able to celebrate these efforts as well as those made by community groups, schools and individuals who are striving to improve New Zealand’s environment and thereby the quality of life in our rural communities, towns and cities.”

The two finalists for Most Beautiful Small Town this year are Foxton and Kaitāia.

Foxton was selected as a finalist this year because of their community beautification and sustainable tourism initiative restoring the Manawatū River loop. Kaitāia was selected for its ‘Kaitāia Artwalk’ project, a collaboration between the Kaitāia Business Association, local iwi, Community Board and local artists to improve the township and create vibrant interesting places for people to meet and enjoy whanaungatanga.

Taupō and Whakatāne will compete this year for the title of Most Beautiful Large Town.

 Taupō was selected as a finalist for their beautification and sustainable tourism project of upgrading the Great Lake Pathway and for their Taupō Town Centre Transformation project which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by introducing car-free pedestrian and cycle friendly zones.

Whakatāne was selected for their litter prevention and waste minimisation initiatives which include a school waste education programme, community water bottle refilling station and voluntary litter clean up events. The small town has also implemented a community seed library to promote health and wellness through the act of gardening, adopted a Climate Change Strategy and boasts sustainable tourism attractions such as the Kiwi Night Walks.

It’s a battle of east versus west for the North Island cities of Whanganui and Hastings – both finalists for this year’s award of Most Beautiful Small City.

Whanganui was last year’s winner of Most Beautiful Small City and Hastings won Most Beautiful Large Town as well as the Supreme Award. A change in the judging criteria this year puts them up against each other.

This is the third year in a row Whanganui has been selected as a finalist for their ongoing initiatives in community beautification, which includes the restoration of heritage buildings and tree plantings; litter and waste minimisation initiatives including their SNAP SEND SOLVE app to tackle illegal dumping; funding a composting service to remove organic waste from local schools participating in the Healthy Schools Lunch Programme; as well as sustainable tourism projects and their development of a Climate Change Strategy.

Hastings was selected as a finalist for its waste and litter prevention campaign which introduced two mascots – Luke the Litter Legend and Colin the Cheeky Chucker, creating a fun and engaging way for children to learn about litter. Hastings has also established an eco-committee, initiated a New Zealand first analysis into the trees in their parks and reserves and has a continued focus on sustainable tourism and community beautification.

Finalists in the Most Beautiful Large City category, proudly sponsored by Stand Desk are Dunedin and Wellington.

Dunedin has set a target to reduce their carbon emissions to net zero by 2030, mainly through planting initiatives. They also have other innovative projects in the works, such as replacing the City Library lighting with a more efficient system and replacing all streetlights with more energy efficient LED’s.

Wellington was selected for their focus on reducing carbon emissions by getting people out of cars and increasing car share schemes, public transport and active travel modes like walking and cycling.

The last phase of judging will involve the Beautiful Awards judges, Keep New Zealand Beautiful CEO Heather Saunderson and BusinessDesk’s Head of Lifestyle and Features Jacqui Loates-Haver, visiting the finalist towns and cities from late August. The winners will be announced at the Beautiful Ball at The Domes, Auckland Zoo on Thursday 28 October 2021. Tickets for the Beautiful Ball are available to purchase on

Jacqui says: “The Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards are a wonderful way to celebrate the hard work and dedication that community groups and local councils put into caring for and enhancing their environment. I’m delighted to be included in the judging panel for the Towns and Cities category this year and I’m very much looking forward to visiting the finalists to see their work around beautification and sustainability first-hand.”

A full list of finalists and recipients can be viewed here.

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