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Update about NZ River Awards

Planning for the 2014 NZ River Awards is well underway. The 2014 winners will be announced at the River Awards Dinner on 27 November in Wellington. Professor Gary Jones (click here) from Canberra will be the guest speaker at the dinner.

The basis for this year’s Awards is the trend in dissolved reactive phosphates (DRP) data, which is available from the new LAWA website (click here). LAWA has a wealth of valuable information on New Zealand rivers and water quality. The judges for this year’s Awards are Clive Howard-Williams (NIWA), Roger Young (Cawthron Institute) and Shirley Hayward (Dairy NZ) – Clive and Roger were on the 2013 judging panel.

The 2014 NZ River Award Dinner will have a Supreme Award for the most improved river in the country based on trend data for phosphate levels. There will be Awards for the second and third most improved rivers as well.

There will also be an Award for the most improved river/stream in each regional council area (except where there is insufficient data or there is no river/stream showing a statistically significant improvement).

This year we will highlight a River Story from each region noting the action being taken by individuals, schools, communities, NGOs, Councils and others to improve the health of rivers or streams. The Morgan Foundation will select and promote three finalists from which we will choose the ultimate winner of 2014 River Story Award.

The Morgan Foundation NZ Riverprize

At the 2013 NZ River Awards Dinner we announced our intention to work with the International River Foundation (IRF) (click here) to establish a New Zealand Riverprize along the same lines as the Australian, European and International Riverprizes. We are making good progress and it is our intention that the first NZ Riverprize will be presented at the International River Symposium in Brisbane in September 2015.

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

The point of both the Riverprize and the NZ River Awards is to 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 beauty parade about river management. 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. So the NZ Riverprize requires Councils and/or NGOs or community groups to complete an extensive application for the river or catchment they believe could win the prize.

Judges assess these applications and decide on a winner. The application process and judging criteria are laid down by the International Riverprize Foundation. Because of this consistency, the NZ Riverprize will identify NZ river-management groups that are applying ideas and adopting practices that are on par with the best in the world.

The winner of the NZ Riverprize will receive a cash prize of around $20,000 from the Morgan Foundation, as well as considerable publicity - the IRF has a well-developed programme for promoting finalists and the winner. One of the questions applicants must address is how they would use the cash prize if they were to win the Riverprize. The winner of the NZ Riverprize is automatically entered into the Thiess International Riverprize the following year (2016).

In contrast, the NZ 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.

At the Awards evening we also recognise two important River Stories. These Awards acknowledge individual and community efforts to protect and improve water quality. The criteria for these Awards are set by the Morgan Foundation. We’re certainly not looking for ‘international best practice’ - just an interesting story that reflects wide collaboration, the input of science, and the challenges faced. There is no formal application process but groups can contact us and nominate themselves for a River Story Award.

Water pollution – defining the problem

The Morgan Foundation has brought together around a dozen eminent water scientists to debate the issues facing New Zealand’s fresh water. We’re using this process to identify where there is scientific consensus and where the scientists disagree. With the panel we’re exploring current trends in water quality, recommended priorities for action and the likely effectiveness of current policies. We’ll keep you posted as we move through this process.

NZ Rivers Trust

We have set up the NZ Rivers Trust as a registered charity to provide long-term backing for the NZ River Awards and the NZ Riverprize. The Trust will also support specific projects to improve river health and water quality. While the Morgan Foundation is currently the major funder of the Trust, overtime we will look for sponsorship of the River Awards and Riverprize.

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