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Waikato Healthy Rivers project a finalist in LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards

An innovative approach by Waikato Regional Council to improving water quality in the Waikato and Waipa Rivers is a finalist in the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) EXCELLENCE Awards. 

Now in their fourth year, the Awards recognise and celebrate the key leadership role that local government plays in communities around the country. 

The two-and-a-half year Healthy Rivers Wai Ora project put responsibility for developing plans to improve water quality with regionally representative groups including the five river iwi and the Waikato River Authority.

A Collaborative Stakeholder Group, with an independent chair, consulted widely through a range of community workshops, public drop-in sessions, and online surveys, supported by a panel of independent experts. 

The approach was a first for any council in New Zealand, allowing those most affected to write the policy that would impact their lives and livelihoods – with council retaining its statutory responsibilities.

Judges said this was a huge engagement process that empowered the community to take the lead on a major issue. 

“This is a fundamental democratic principal of having faith in the community.  It showed leadership from the council and because of this level of engagement it will endure.” 

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule said the finalists in the EXCELLENCE Awards showcased outstanding leadership being provided by local government throughout the country. 

“Local government is at the centre of every community in New Zealand, helping shape the environment in which we work and play,” Mr Yule says. 

“Being named as a finalist is a great achievement and reflects the vision shown by councils and the innovative work being done by staff.  The finalists include some truly exceptional projects that are having a profound impact on communities.” 

Local authorities were invited to submit award applications in five categories:

  • Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement
  • Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Best Creative Place
  • Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact
  • Chorus EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice in Infrastructure
  • Crown Fibre Holdings EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice Contribution to Local Economic Development

Judges for the awards are former Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast, Chair of EQC Sir Maarten Wevers and The New Zealand Initiative’s Executive Director, Dr Oliver Hartwich.