Hastings is now the new home of New Zealand's best small events venue.
Toitoi- Hawke's Bay Arts & Events Centre was awarded Small Events Venue of the Year by the Event Venue Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) at the 2021 EVANZ awards on Thursday night.
The criteria for the award was a venue with fewer than 1000 seats that has demonstrated "outstanding focus on its community, customers, staff and suppliers" and shows "clarity of vision, tangible objectives and a plan for sustainability".
Toitoi manager Megan Peacock-Coyle said the venue was thrilled to receive the award.
"We've been members of EVANZ for a long time as an organisation and to be a part of that organisation and to be a finalist and then win was awesome," Peacock-Coyle said.
She credits the strategic plan that she and her team adopted to serve the community.
"Doing that means that we need to be open and available to our community. It means working in partnerships with our Treaty partners, it means being inclusive and diverse, so that people can see their face in our place. Putting resources and staffing in place focused on community engagement."
She said Toitoi has achieved a trifecta of awards in the last year.
"We won EVANZ leader of the year last year, and we also won the local government award for cultural excellence at the LGNZ conference in July. So this is our third one in a year, we're pretty stoked."
Toitoi was judged against fellow finalists, The Globe Theatre in Palmerston North and Haere-Roa in Christchurch.
The judges said in their comments on Toitoi's winning entry that it had a very balanced approach to community.
"A true understanding of their base has meant they have a defined and different approach, depending on the hirer. This speaks highly to their community focus."
EVANZ general manager Sally-Anne Coates said many nominations were assessed by the judges before they were narrowed down to three finalists.
She said what stood out most from the judges' comments about Toitoi was how it was the heart of the community.
"It's not just a high-brow performing arts centre, it's a place where things happen for everybody across the community, and what really came through to the judges was their really thorough understanding of who is in their community, what they'll respond to, and what they'll need to feel welcome, able to come to the venue and able to participate in what happens there."