New Zealand River Awards.

Cawthron Foundation 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 three scientists using statistical analysis of monitoring data from LAWA. Each year the Awards use one of four key water quality indicators: E.coli, nitrogen, phosphorus and the macroinvertebrate community index.

Images from NZ River Awards 2015 and 2016

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 2018 River Awards will be announced on 13 November at a ceremony in Wellington. To find out more, email

The 2017 award winners were:

  • Pahau River – Supreme Award for Most Improved River
  • University of Otago staff and students – River Story Award
  • Marnie Prickett – Reo mo te Awa (River Voice) Award

The winners of the River Story award (left) and the Reo mo te Awa award (right) – Photo: Mark Tantrum

Click here to watch videos all River Story finalists.

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.

The Cawthron Foundation has generous support from Lane Neave, the Department of Conservation, Ministry for the Environment, Tourism Holding Limited and the Gawith-Deans Family Trust to run the 2018 Awards.

Read more about the winners of the NZ River Awards 2017 here.

From left to right, accepting the award on behalf of Pahau River, winner Most Improved River 2017: Bill Bayfield (ECan), Voray Croft (ACI), Steve Lowndes (Ecan), David Croft (AIC), Andrew Barton (AIC).

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