You beauty, Hastings!
The judges of the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards have confirmed what those who live in the Hawke's Bay town already know - Hastings is a beautiful place.
Hastings won the Most Beautiful Large Town and Supreme Winner Most Beautiful Towns & Cities accolades at the awards held "virtually" on Thursday night, winning a community mural valued up to $10,000.
The city battled competition from fellow finalist Cambridge to reign supreme at the awards, which celebrate the environmental excellence of communities, businesses, schools and individuals in New Zealand.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said what made the city stand out was what the judges saw with their own eyes when they spent the day in Hastings.
"Our beautiful landscapes, parks and reserves but more importantly the work that goes on behind the scenes by both the community and council to keep it that way, and make it even better. They were incredibly impressed," Hazlehurst said.
"This award is the recognition of the efforts of all of our community and our council teams to keep Hastings beautiful. I was very honoured to accept this award on behalf of all of our people."
Hazlehurst said the judges were also very complimentary about the town's performing art facilities.
"They loved Toitoi – Hawke's Bay Arts and Events Centre; including Functions on Hastings, the Cushing Theatre and the Opera House," she said.
"They were truly wowed at the preservation of the history and culture, the integration of all of the spaces, and the sustainability practices we've put in place."
Thirteen category winners were announced, after which Hastings was named the Supreme Winner.
The awards ceremony was to have been held in Auckland, however, because of the Covid situation at the time of planning, the ceremony was moved online.
Keep New Zealand Beautiful chief executive Heather Saunderson said Hastings stood out among the contenders.
"Out of all the towns and cities we visited, Hastings ranked the highest for community beautification, but also excelled across every other criterion, making it the clear winner of the Supreme Award," she said.
The Most Beautiful Large Town award is for towns with populations of up to 100,000.
There are 12 other awards, with each finalist having to demonstrate sustainable and environmentally conscious behaviours across four key areas: litter prevention and waste minimisation, community beautification, recycling projects and sustainable tourism.
Napier's Anderson Park was a finalist in the Best Loo category, but was flushed away by Hunua Falls Toilet, located in Auckland.
The winner of the Most Beautiful City was shared this year, with Hamilton being Most Beautiful Large City and Whanganui Most Beautiful Small City.
Arrowtown was the Most Beautiful Small Town.
The finalists were judged by Saunderson and award-winning journalist and wellness expert Rachel Grunwell.
Saunderson said celebrating the small wins of New Zealand is important in today's changeable world.
"This year Covid-19 has shifted the global landscape, and its long-term effects remain unclear," she said.
"Celebrating environmental excellence, small wins and beautiful behaviour, whether personal or professional is now more important than ever."