Celebrating our freshwater champions – 2021 Cawthron New Zealand River Awards winners announced
25 November 2021
Cawthron Institute is pleased to announce the winners and finalists in the 2021 Cawthron New Zealand River Awards, which celebrate the efforts and achievements of people who are committed to improving freshwater health.
There are three award categories:
- The Supreme Award which recognises a catchment community that has made the most progress toward improved river health;
- The River Story Award which recognises individuals or community groups that have made major efforts to improve river health; and
- The River Voice Award, which recognises an individual or group that has been an outstanding advocate and communicator about freshwater health issues in Aotearoa.
This year the winner and finalists in the Supreme Award category will receive cash prizes alongside their titles.
Supreme Award – ‘Catchment With Most Progress Toward Improved River Health’
WINNER – Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord – $10,000 prize
Second Place – Maraetotara Tree Trust (Hawkes Bay) – $3,000 prize
Third Place – Pāpāwai-Mangarara Catchment Community (Wairarapa) – $2,000 prize
River Story Award
WINNER – Pūniu River Care (Waikato)
Second Place – Kaūpokonui Catchment Community (Taranaki)
Third Place – Aspiring Biodiversity Trust for Makarora/Makarore River (Ōtākou)
River Voice Award
WINNER – Forest & Bird
Video: Supreme Award winners the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord have received the top prize for being named the ‘Catchment With Most Progress Toward Improved River Health.’
Video: Pūniu River Care Inc. in Waikato have won the ‘River Story Award’ category for their kaupapa Māori-led environmental restoration work in the Pūniu River.
Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord – Winner of Award for Catchment With Most Progress Toward Improved River Health
In 2010, the Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum was established in response to the freshwater health issues facing the catchment. Over 34 key stakeholder groups, including iwi, local and regional government and industry, committed to the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord.
Lead judge for the Supreme Award category, Jim Sinner of Cawthron Institute, says the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord entry stood out for its strong sense of purpose and direction.
“The Accord’s objectives and key actions were established and clearly articulated in the Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum’s 2011 Action Plan for improving the health of Manawatū,” Jim Sinner says.
“A decade later, they’re onto the delivery of their second Action Plan, and can clearly demonstrate progress against their original objectives, with active and regular review processes in place.
“The judges commended the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord for working to include a wide range of stakeholders in the community, government and industry, and for building strong relationships with iwi and hapū groups, many of which are integral members of the Accord.”
Rachel Keedwell, Horizons Regional Council Chair and Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum Co-Chair, says the Award acknowledges the hard work that has gone into improving the health of the Manawatū River catchment.
“This is a great opportunity to stop and celebrate what we’ve achieved, while acknowledging that there is still a long way to go and this is just the first step in our journey.”
Tanenuiarangi Manawatū Incorporated Chief Executive and Forum Co-Chair Danielle Harris says that the Award is great recognition of the iwi groups who have been involved in the Accord.
“To Rangitāne, Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Kahungungu, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Raukawa, and all of the other stakeholders who have been involved – without our combined, Herculean efforts over the last ten years, we would not have got to this stage,” Danielle Harris says.
“The Forum’s vision is ‘Kei te ora te wai, kei te ora te whenua, kei te ora te tangata – If the river is healthy then the land and the people are nourished’.”
To read more about the work the Accord has done to improve the Manawatū River, and the New Zealand River Awards judges comments on their entry, read their River Awards profile here.
Video: Rachel Keedwell and Danielle Harris accept the award virtually on behalf of the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord.
Image: Horizons Regional Council. Members of the public pose for a photo as part of the inaugural Manawatū River Festival in 2018.
Pūniu River Care Inc. (Waikato) – Winner of River Story Award
Pūniu River Care Inc. is an environmental restoration organisation based at Mangatoatoa Marae which employs local whānau to do the mahi. The initiative was desperately needed because the water in the Pūniu wasn’t safe to swim in, river banks were eroding and the tuna population had plummeted.
The organisation was established in 2015, with a strong focus on helping local marae and hapū learn, grow and use their knowledge in Mātauranga Māori in a safe learning environment.
Pūniu River Care has been working hard ever since to clean up this awa, with the support of key funders and meaningful partnerships, from the likes of the Waikato Regional Council, their local marae and influential landowners. They have grown and planted over 1.2 million trees since their inception and the nursery now has the capacity to grow 1.5 million trees annually. In addition, over 60kms of fencing has been completed on farms along the Pūniu and Waipā Awa.
The judges for the River Story Award category, Gerard Hutching and Dr Jane Kitson, say Pūniu River Care’s story reflects all of the key objectives and criteria of the River Story Award.
“Pūniu River Care has managed to make a demonstrable difference to the health of Pūniu Awa, all the while creating jobs for locals, integrating Mātauranga Māori into their operations in a way that shares this knowledge within the community, and they’ve built strong relationships between partners and stakeholders,” Gerard Hutching says.
“It’s a holistic approach to environmental restoration that creates multiple flow-on benefits for the community.”
Pūniu River Care CEO Shannon Te Huia says the project isn’t just about growing plants.
“Anyone can start a nursery and plant trees, but it’s the why, and it’s relating the why to Te Aō Māori world views on how we express who we are – our rangatiratanga, our kaitiakitanga, our guardianship.
“And, it’s making that real; our goal is to bring the river back to what it was in the ’70s.”
Video: Members of the Pūniu River Care whānau accept their 2021 River Story Award virtually.
Image: Members of the Pūniu River Care whānau out planting.
Forest & Bird – The 2021 Reo Mō Te Awa / River Voice Award Winner
The Reo Mō Te Awa Award celebrates a person or organisation that is an outstanding advocate and communicator of freshwater environmental issues.
Selected by trustees of the New Zealand Rivers Trust, the recipient of this award is acknowledged for their credibility, influence and relevance and their proven ability to deliver results against their objectives.
New Zealand Rivers Trust trustee, Dr Morgan Williams, says the judges selected Forest & Bird in acknowledgement of their significant influence on land and water management practices.
“Forest & Bird has a 100-year legacy of impact on people and the environment in Aotearoa,” Morgan Williams says.
“They are skilled at using their expertise and energy to campaign for improved resource management to protect our freshwater ecosystems and the Trustees wanted to acknowledge their commitment to protecting wildlife and wild places.”
Forest & Bird President Mark Hanger says birds from all over the world and fish only found here in New Zealand depend on our rivers to survive.
“It is only thanks to donors and volunteers that Forest & Bird can be a voice for rivers. With over 4000 New Zealand species on the brink of extinction, many of them dependent on healthy rivers, we must continue to fight for a stable climate and push back against destructive industries,” Mark Hanger says.
Video: Forest & Bird have been named as the recipients of the 2021 River Voice Award in acknowledgement of their excellent advocacy and communication on freshwater environmental issues.
The New Zealand River Awards have been running since 2013 to celebrate the efforts and achievements of people who are committed to improving freshwater health. The objectives of the Awards are to:
- Improve the health of New Zealand’s river and streams
- Encourage greater community participation in measuring and reporting water quality
- Highlight the actions being taken to restore freshwater health.
For more information visit the New Zealand River Awards webpage.