The Anchor AIMS Games and the Kopurererua Valley project have nabbed top honours at the 2018 New Zealand Recreation Awards held in Auckland on Thursday night.

But the good news did not end there. The Mauao Historic Reserve got a merit in the outstanding park category.

The outstanding event category went to the Anchor AIMS Games and tournament director Vicki Semple said it was a fantastic achievement for all involved.

Although she accepted the award, Semple wanted to credit the amazing team she worked with, including the Tauranga City Council.

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AIMS Games opening ceremony at ASB Arena earlier this year. Photo/File
AIMS Games opening ceremony at ASB Arena earlier this year. Photo/File

The event had gone from strength to strength and caused food for thought.

''As I was sitting there and they were talking about the event and I started reflecting. I thought if someone had said to me back in 2004 you know you are going to be here tonight and win this award, I would have said 'not in a million years'.

''It was quite exciting and absolutely amazing.''

''What I love about the AIMS Games now is the pride that Tauranga has in the event as everyone buys into and celebrate the event when its on and I think that is the point of difference.''

Ironically, on the day of the awards, Semple was in Auckland having planning meetings for 2019 ''so it all starts again''.

Buddy Mikaere said Kopurererua Valley, which won the outstanding project award, was only going to get better.

Kopurererua Valley was the largest restored wetlands river enhancement project in the Southern Hemisphere, he said.

''It's just amazing ... there are so many other enhancements also going on like all the walkways, cycleways the new pedestrian bridge and you are starting to see the return of rare birds that we haven't seen for years.''

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Credit was also due to successive councils which supported the whole concept alongside major stakeholders and Rotary that were involved in obtaining and planting native plants, he said.

''It's just wonderful.''

The night was quite emotional, Mikaere said, considering Mauao Historic Reserve also picked up the merit.

More than one million people a year visited Mauao, he said.

''That must be the most highly visited park reserve in New Zealand.''

The awards were good advertisements for the city, he said.

''It just shows what we can do with big community buy-in for projects.''

Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout, who attended the awards, said it was a fantastic effort and great for Tauranga.

''I thought it was a real feather in our cap.''

NZRA is a charitable body and the Recreation Awards have been held annually since 1991 to recognise individuals, organisations, programmes, and facilities that have made exceptional contributions to improving recreation and sport for New Zealanders.