Finalists announced for inaugural New Zealand Riverprize

Gareth MorganEnvironment

International RiverFoundation has announced four finalists for the first Morgan Foundation New Zealand Riverprize, reflecting the high quality of work that is being undertaken in river restoration across the country.

The four finalists in the 2015 Morgan Foundation New Zealand Riverprize are the Aorere River (Tasman), Lake Taupo (Waikato), the Manawatu River (Manawatu) and Project Twin Streams (Waitakere).

“The finalists are exceptional,” stated Gayle Wood, Chair of the New Zealand Riverprize Judging Panel and former winner of the Thiess International Riverprize.

“They demonstrate the best that New Zealand has to offer in integrated river basin management.  While protecting the country’s rivers and lakes, the finalists all approach their work in unique ways – some are community led partnerships and others are coordinated by the government.  New Zealand should be very proud of this environmental work which ranks among the best in the world.”

The winner of the inaugural New Zealand Riverprize will receive a NZD$20,000 cash prize, generously sponsored by the Morgan Foundation, and will also have a shot at being named the winner of the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize in 2016.

The four finalists will present their achievements at the International Riversymposium in Brisbane in September, with the winner to be announced in front of an international audience of river practitioners at the Riverprize Gala Dinner on Tuesday 22 September.

The Morgan Foundation New Zealand Riverprize is an initiative of the International RiverFoundation, who also award the Australian, European and North American Riverprize as well as the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize – for achieving the best outcomes in river and basin management. The Morgan Foundation is a charitable trust that supports public interest research, conservation projects and social investment, and is an enthusiastic backer of the New Zealand Riverprize. The Foundation was instrumental in setting up New Zealand’s Most Improved Rivers Awards in 2013, which recognises annually the most improved rivers in terms of key water quality indicators.

The New Zealand Riverprize was open to applicants from anywhere in the country who could demonstrate outstanding, visionary and sustainable programs in river management, restoration or protection – regardless of the size of the river of the scale of the project. Applicants were judged by an independent panel of experts in a range of river management fields.

All Riverprize finalists and winners receive recognition and reward for their achievements and join an elite group of Riverprize alumni who are supported to continue their efforts and share their experiences with others.

Contact: Patricia Dalby, Marketing and Communication Manager, International RiverFoundation
Tel: +61 7 3026 0823 | Email:


Aorere River (Tasman)

image02The Aorere River Initiative is a farmer-led catchment project in the Tasman District of New Zealand’s South Island. With the catchment home to over 13,000 cows and 35 dairy farms, the Aorere River has suffered from serious bacterial contamination. This contamination has in turn had a negative impact on aquaculture including the mussel and cockle farms in the Ruataniwha estuary.

New Zealand Landcare Trust (NZLT) played a lead role in bringing different stakeholders together and supporting farmers in the region to set up the Aorere Catchment Group. NZLT worked with farmers to develop on-farm environmental plans, provide project coordination and act as brokers, facilitators and supporters to the farming community.

A major achievement of the Aorere River Initiative was the willingness of dairy farmers to tackle issues caused by their practices – with 24 farms developing farm plans and over $1.6 million invested in on-farm best management practices. The Aorere River Initiative not only improved the ecological health of the river and coastal environment but also created community cohesion, assisting dairy and marine farmers to coexist and maintain their livelihoods sustainably. The initiative has also transferred knowledge to others by Twinning with the nearby Rai catchment and developing a toolkit to apply in other catchments across New Zealand.

Lake Taupo (Waikato)

image01Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand, valued highly for its crystal blue water and dramatic vistas. These features support an international tourist mecca, a world class fishery and a locally preferred recreation and retirement centre. The lake is the cultural and spiritual heart of the local indigenous people, Ngati Tuwharetoa.


Lake Taupo’s excellent water quality derives from extremely low levels of plant nutrients and phytoplankton. The lake’s sensitivity to nutrient inflows and soil erosion was recognised early in the development of the lake catchment when indigenous vegetation was converted to pasture and urban growth around the lake. During the 1970s and 1980s, extensive catchment control schemes and lake shore reserves were established to protect the lake. However, increasing nutrient flows from rural intensification and urban development resulted in declining water quality which was becoming apparent to the local community.


In early 2000, Waikato Regional Council established a project to protect the lake in response to community concerns. At its heart it was a partnership between Government, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Taupo District Council and Waikato Regional Council, supported by extensive, genuine engagement with rural land owners. The Protecting Lake Taupo Project has successfully generated political support, engaged numerous sector interests and established policies to protect the lake and retain a vibrant rural community, whilst incorporating the role of Ngati Tuwharetoa,  providing solutions and opportunities for rural land owners and developing a public fund to support on-farm change. The Lake Taupo project is the first in a range of unique management responses brokered to sustainably manage New Zealand’s most used and regulated waterbody – the Waikato River – from its source at Lake Taupo to where it joins the Tasman Sea.

Manawatu River (Manawatu)

image04In early 2010 the Manawatu River hit national headlines as “among the worst in the Western World”. It has since become a beacon for all the challenges facing freshwater quality in New Zealand and the focus of the Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord. These media reports provided an impetus for change at a time when freshwater management was already under intense litigation through the development of Horizons Regional Council’s One Plan.


In August 2010, key leaders in the region signed an Accord publically pledging to work together to improve the health of the Manawatu River. The Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord unites over 34 diverse stakeholders under the common goal of improving the Manawatu River and the mauri (lifeforce) of the Manawatu River Catchment, so that it sustains fish species, is suitable for recreation and balances the social, cultural and economic activities of the community. Initiated amid intense media scrutiny and fierce legal battles regarding freshwater quality, the Accord has moved the community from finger-pointing and blame to positive action and progress.


By banding together, signatories to the Accord secured $5.2 million funding from Central Government as part of a $30 million clean-up package. The balance was funded by local government, DairyNZ and landowners within the Region. Funds were put towards extensive upgrades to six wastewater treatment plants; working with farmers to exclude sheep and cattle from over 200km of waterways through fencing; restoring native fish and whitebait habitats; working with dairy farmers to implement 98 Environmental Farm Plans  and supporting 14 community projects working to improve the River’s health and mauri. Recognising its great success, other groups in New Zealand have begun replicating the Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord model.


Project Twin Streams (Waitakere)

image03Project Twin Streams is a large-scale environmental restoration project in Auckland, New Zealand, which begun in 2003. Working to improve water quality in streams throughout the Huruhuru and Henderson Creek catchments (twin catchments) 56 kms of streamside has been revegetated and properties within the flood plain have been purchased for removal. Looking beyond stream restoration and property purchases, the Council has since implemented a sustainable community development approach that recognises the interconnectedness of social, cultural, spiritual, economic and environmental wellbeing.


PTS seeks to restore the mauri, or life force, of its waterways, weaving together integrated stormwater management with environmental, cultural and social objectives. At the heart of this project are the local communities that these streams flow through. Project Twin Streams’ unique approach engages local residents by partnering with community organisations to deliver the planting programme. Project Twin Streams is a local project with regional benefits – it works with both nature and people to improve the health of its waterways.


While the current focus of the project is on stream bank restoration, the aims and objectives are much wider. Project Twin Streams examines how land is used, how households can become more sustainable, and how the cycle and walkways created can influence public health. Stream quality and environments are improving, and communities are becoming more cohesive, as they work together to change their behaviours and improve their local environment.

Finalists announced for inaugural New Zealand Riverprize 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.