A river on the Mahia Peninsula has narrowly missed out on winning a major award, with the judges calling its management unique and a worldwide example.

The Whangawehi Catchment Management Group was one of three finalists competing for the 2019 Thiess International Riverprize , which is the world's foremost prize in river basin management.

Project manager Nic Caviale-Delzescaux said the nomination confirms the group is operating at an international level.

"That's a great encouragement for all our Whangawehi community.

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"We were rubbing shoulders with inspiring initiatives that show how integrated river basin management can restore and protect rivers, wetlands, lakes and estuaries."

The judges' feedback said the model used to manage Whangawehi was unique, and should be considered a worldwide example, however the group formed too recently to base its achievements on decades of monitoring data.

The winner was the James River Initiative, an American-based project.

The other finalist was the Chicago River Restoration Project, another large-scale American initiative.

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The International Riverprize recognises and rewards organisations making waves in the sustainable management of the world's rivers.

Previous winners and finalists have received widespread recognition and built new partnerships.

Past winners include the River Thames in England, and the Danube River, a transnational river in Europe.

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The Whangawehi Catchment Management group consists of marae, locals farms, forestry companies and other agencies who are working together to improve the health of the river and its tributaries.

Work includes fencing, retiring farm land bordering the river and planting trees.

Last year the group won the Asia-Pacific prize at the awards.