The Napier City Vision: Small City Big Ideas project has been named a finalist in this year's Local Government New Zealand EXCELLENCE Awards.

Now in their fourth year, the awards recognise and celebrate the key leadership role that local government plays in communities around the country.

The Napier City Council project secured a finalist spot in the Best Creative Place category of the awards for its focus on assisting and showcasing the entrepreneurial spirit in Napier's city centre, Ahuriri and waterfront districts.

Council director city strategy Richard Munneke said this essentially meant highlighting all the "cool stuff" that happened in the city, and actively engaging with people in the community to bring ideas to life.

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Over the past year the project had seen the likes of the pop-up Magnet Cafe operating over summer, a children's playground installed on Emerson St to keep the youngsters engaged while their parents relaxed with a coffee, and a "parklet" on Tennyson St.

A Market St pop-up that offered Wi-Fi and bean bags and umbrellas was very popular, gathering in the region of 10,000 hits on Facebook, he said.

This kind of innovation was the aim of the project that was evolving as it went along and also included larger strategic ambitions.

One such experimental plan about to start involved calming traffic on Marine Parade, taking traffic down one lane and putting parking in the other.

"The idea is to slow things down and draw the sea back into the city," Mr Munneke said.

"The public can talk to us via a special website where they can comment and that will help us find out what works - we can get real-time feedback and find out what excites the whole community."

This "open for business" attitude had created a marked change in the way the council engaged with the public, building community confidence in risk-taking and driving innovation, the award judges said.

"It is aspirational and while the individual projects are small they will change the nature of the city. The council has involved a reference group and an expert urban designer, and are showing they are open to new ideas and to having new things in different places."

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The overarching strategy of the project followed six principles: putting people first, open for business, a port and coastal city, our people, our stories, ecological excellence and pedal power.

Mr Munneke said the people behind the project were really proud that it had been recognised as an award finalist.

The other finalist in the Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award Best Creative Place was the Waikato District Council placemaking programme that reclaimed public spaces by encouraging groups and individuals to develop cultural and artistic ideas ranging from delivering library services through Little Libraries, to knitting poppies for trees to mark Anzac Day.

The award judges were former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast, EQC chairman Sir Maarten Wevers and The New Zealand Initiative's executive director, Dr Oliver Hartwich.

The awards will be held between July 23 and 25.