New Zealand River Awards.

Cawthron is proud to run the New Zealand River Awards

The health of our rivers and streams is crucial to the future well-being of our environment, society and economy.

The New Zealand River 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 long-term objectives of the Awards are to:

  • Improve the health of New Zealand’s rivers and streams.
  • Encourage greater community participation in measuring and reporting water quality.
  • Highlight the actions being taken to restore river health.

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 scientists using statistical analysis of monitoring data from LAWA: E.coli, nitrogen, phosphorus and the macroinvertebrate community index (MCI). In 2019, E.coli (water quality) and the MCI (biological health) will be combined as the basis for determining improvement.

The Awards were established by the Morgan Foundation and the NZ Rivers Trust in 2013, and have received valuable support from regional and local councils, and many other stakeholders in the freshwater space.

Cawthron has generous support from Lane Neave, the Department of Conservation, Ministry for the Environment, and the Gawith-Deans Family Trust to run the 2019 Awards, which are being held in Wellington on Thursday 7 November.

The 2018 Supreme Award for Most Improved River winner went to Canterbury: Ōtukaikino River. Read more about this River here. The judge report for the ‘Most Improved River’ is available from

Images from NZ River Awards entries 

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.


(Left) River Story Finalists: Mere Tamanui, Wendy Johns, Andrew Pennekit

(Right) Supreme Award Most Improved River: Iaen Cranwell, Pauline Cotter, Arthur Adcock, Tom Lambie

Click here to watch videos for all three River Story finalists.

Auckland: Advocates have been active on Oakley Creek (also known as Te Auaunga), one of Auckland’s longest urban streams. Oakley Creek is accessible to the public for almost its entire length and since 2004, volunteers have been protecting and preserving the creek environment. Watch here.

Gisborne: Mere Tamanui has merged the ancient Māori principles of environmental guardianship with modern scientific methods in the Gisborne district, reconnecting whanau to their ancestral awa. Watch here.

Otago: Over the past ten years Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust, a Wanaka community-based native plant nursery, has planted upwards of 35,000 trees in the Upper Clutha area and has received funding to expand its riparian planting programme with another 24,000 trees. Watch here.


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 – Photo: Mark Tantrum