2014 New Zealand River Awards

Gareth MorganEnvironment

The second annual New Zealand River Awards will be announced this Thursday evening in Wellington.

The Awards recognise the most improved river in each region where there’s robust data, and also identifies the three most improved rivers in the country.

Last year the Awards were based on improvement in e-coli levels. This year we’re using the long-term reduction in the level of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) to determine the most improved rivers.

Increases in DRP can lead to the growth of river algae and slimes on riverbeds, which can smother the habitat of other freshwater organisms and cause other water quality issues (high pH and low dissolved oxygen).

The main human-derived sources of phosphorus in rivers include discharges from town waste-water treatment plants (yes, pouring poorly treated sewerage into rivers!), farm-shed discharges, accelerated erosion of phosphorus-rich land and runoff of fertiliser from farm land

The good news is that there are quite a few things both townies and farmers can, and are doing, to tackle the problem of high levels of DRP in our rivers, including:

  • diversion to land or sea, of urban wate-water or better still, further treatment of waste-water
  • improved farming practices to reduce erosion and retain soils
  • minimise fertiliser loss near streams through more careful application
  • fencing to prevent stock access to waterways
  • improved riparian management that prevents phosphorus in surface runoff from reaching waterways


River Stories

Another feature of this year’s Awards are River Stories from each region. There are some humbling stories of individuals and community groups working tirelessly to protect and restore our waterways. While we can’t claim these are the best, most laudable or indeed the most inspiring River Stories, they are great, laudable and inspiring. They’ve been picked by staff at the Morgan Foundation.

Mike White from North & South magazine has ably led the process of picking three finalists and the winner of the 2014 River Story Award from the 16 regional River Stories. We’ll be posting videos of the three finalists shortly and also text versions for all 16 River Stories.

The Morgan Foundation New Zealand Riverprize

The Morgan Foundation is putting up $20,000 for the winner of the 2015 New Zealand Riverprize and joins the ranks of Thiess and Coca-Cola Europe in rewarding and recognising those undertaking river protection and restoration work around the world. The Morgan Foundation New Zealand Riverprize joins a number of other regional Riverprizes managed by the International RiverFoundation (IRF) in Brisbane.

Now, you are probably wondering why have both the New Zealand  River Awards and the New Zealand Riverprize, and what’s the difference?

Both celebrate and encourage efforts to protect and improve the health of our rivers and waterways. It’s about accentuating the positive. So the two competitions have that in common, but there the similarities end.

The Riverprize is essentially a contest of best river-management practice. Organisations working on a river or catchment submit a detailed application, which explains the water challenges being addressed and what is being done to find and implement solutions. The Riverprize requires Councils and/or NGOs or community groups to complete an extensive application for their river.

Judges assess these applications and choose a winner. The application process and judging criteria are laid down by the International RiverFoundation. A major benefit of this is that the winner of the NZ Riverprize is automatically entered into the Thiess International Riverprize the following year (2016).

In contrast to the Riverprize, the New Zealand River Awards are for the most improved rivers and focus on trends in water quality. The Awards are based on an examination of the data to find the most improved rivers/waterways in each region and nationally. Nobody is required to enter this contest, every officially monitored waterway is automatically considered.


2014 New Zealand River Awards was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan
About the Author

Gareth Morgan

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Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.