Judging is underway to select the best River Stories for 2019 as part of the New Zealand River Awards

The New Zealand River Awards are organised by Cawthron Institute to highlight projects that have a positive impact on waterways around Aotearoa New Zealand. The Awards recognise the most improved rivers from around the country, with the Supreme Award going to the most improved river.

The River Stories recognise those who are working at regional level to improve the health of a river, or rivers generally. Eight stories have been identified as finalists. The stories showcase individuals, groups, businesses and communities that are working together to make a positive difference to the health of our rivers and streams.

Cawthron Institute is excited to announce that this year the River Story component of the New Zealand River Awards is sponsored by the Ministry for the Environment.

“At the Ministry for the Environment we know the importance of championing community successes, and so we are proud to sponsor the River Story Award. We know the vast majority of New Zealanders care deeply about the state of our waterways, and we hope other Kiwis can draw inspiration from the finalists and the great work they’re doing,” says Cheryl Barnes, Deputy Secretary for Water and Climate Change at the Ministry for the Environment.

Cawthron Institute’s Elizabeth Bean says that people over the length and breadth of New Zealand are working hard to improve the quality of our waterways.

“The health, and Mauri, of rivers is important to kiwis and all the projects that we heard about illustrate people working hard and doing positive things to help improve river quality,” says Elizabeth Bean. “There were many compelling stories and it was hard to choose eight finalist projects.”

The eight finalists are currently being judged by leading New Zealand journalist and natural history author, Gerard Hutching.

The finalists by region are:

  • Northland: Andrew Booth is the third generation of his family to farm adjacent to the Mangakahia River. Growing up on the land made him appreciate the river he used to swim in, and where his children now swim. He believes there is “no reason for it to get to the state where it's unswimmable.”
  • Auckland: For more than a decade Julia Tuineau has worked with Māori, schools, community and the local council to address water quality in Tararata Stream. Enhancement initiatives include education, pest control, building fish refuges, wetland development, planting, and weeding programmes. A creek that was once a sad waterway is now a healthy stream.
  • Gisborne: The Rere Water Quality Enhancement Project is about improving poor water quality in the Wharekopae River, which runs through the Rere Rockslide and Rere Falls. Nearly all sheep and beef farms in the catchment have completed farm environment plans and are taking measures to improve water quality in the river.
  • Hawkes Bay: Seventeen years ago, a couple of locals had a vision to fence, plant, and protect nearly 90km of the Maraetōtara riverbank. Hard work means that today the half-way point has been reached, with both sides of the 43km stream fenced and 250,000 native plantings providing a corridor for wildlife.
  • South Island Rivers: Logan Williams is a 23-year-old on a mission to fix our rivers. Didymo is an invasive algae that, despite efforts to contain it, has infested many of the South Island's most iconic rivers, such as the Rangitata and Tekapo Rivers. Logan has synthesised didymo into a 100% recyclable product that is eco-friendly and could be an alternative to plastics.
  • Canterbury: Getting rid of diggers and improving the habitat with practical interventions is turning around the fortunes of Snake Creek, a lowland stream surrounded by farmland. In its third year, this project shows how much can be achieved by collaboration. The Water & Wildlife Habitat Trust, local farmers, Fish & Game, Environment Canterbury, the University of Canterbury, and the Ministry for the Environment are all involved.
  • Canterbury: For the past 15 years DOC, power companies Meridian and Genesis, and local landowners and volunteers have been restoring the Tasman River. The riverbed was being choked by pest plants and predators were killing the native bird species. Their work is paying dividends and the number of black-fronted terns has increased from under 100 ten years ago, to more than 600 in 2017.
  • West Coast: In 2012 a public meeting was called by the local council to come up with ideas that encouraged visitors to stay longer in Greymouth. Volunteers are working with the council and DOC to regenerate the estuary and lagoon along the Grey River. Seven years on the idea that it was hoped would help persuade visitors to stay a night or two is taking off.

The winning River Story will be announced at the New Zealand River Awards celebration evening in Wellington on 7 November 2019.


For more information, including local contact details for each of the eight river stories and further background contact:

Elizabeth Bean | Cawthron Institute

Email: elizabeth.bean@cawthron.org.nz, Tel: +64 (0)3 539 4336, Mobile: +64 (0)27 4148781

About Cawthron Institute:

Cawthron Institute is New Zealand's largest independent science organisation, offering a spectrum of services to help protect the environment and support sustainable development of primary industries. It is a diverse organisation employing more than 300 scientists, laboratory technicians, researchers and specialist staff from more than 28 countries.

Cawthron’s scientists have expertise in aquaculture, marine and freshwater resource management, food safety and quality, algal technologies, biosecurity and analytical testing. Its ground-breaking science is supported by substantial testing and research laboratories, state-of-the-art technology and a purpose-built aquaculture park.

About the New Zealand River Awards:

The annual New Zealand River Awards were established by the Morgan Foundation and the NZ Rivers Trust in 2013. The Awards are supported by regional and local councils, and many other stakeholders in the freshwater space.

Cawthron has received generous support from Lane Neave, the Ministry for the Environment, the Department of Conservation, and the Gawith-Deans Family Trust to run the 2019 Awards.

The Awards were established to draw attention to the state of our rivers, but more importantly, to recognise where communities, councils, farmers and industry were achieving significant improvement in water quality in one or more of their local rivers.

The Awards celebrate improvement in water quality. All rivers, whether they are in poor health or in pristine condition can potentially win an award for being the most improved river in a region, or nationally. The most improved rivers are determined by a judging panel of three scientists using statistical analysis of monitoring data from LAWA that includes: E.coli, nitrogen, phosphorus and the macroinvertebrate community index (MCI). This year an indicator which combines E.coli and MCI will be used.

In addition to identifying the most improved rivers, there are two other important awards:

  • The River Story Award for the most interesting and compelling story of an individual or community working to improve the health of a river, or rivers generally.
  • The Reo Mō Te Awa Award (River Voice) Award is for an individual who has the raised the profile of rivers through compelling public commentary.

The 2019 New Zealand River Awards will be announced on 7 November 2019 at a celebration evening in Wellington.