Foxton Te Awahou was nominated for Most Beautiful Small Town in the 2021 Keep NZ Beautiful (KNZB) awards by Horowhenua District Council (HDC) waste minimisation officer Robbie Stillwell.
One of two finalists, the town was singled out for its dedication to sustainable tourism and restoring the destinations on the Manawatū River.
Stillwell joined HDC earlier this year and the first major local event he participated in was the Manawatū River Improvement Festival in Foxton at the end of February.
"I was really impressed with the growth [of the town] over recent years [and the event] showcased the really cool things you can do on the river and in the town," Stillwell said.
Stillwell then began looking into the requirements around the KNZB awards and reached out to Foxton businesses and organisations who exemplified those requirements.
Foxton Beach School was one of the groups highlighted under the waste minimisation initiatives.
Since the end of 2019 the school has been involved with the Litter Intelligence Programme, which involves collecting data on the types of litter found on our coastlines and using that information to inform high-level decision making in regards to waste minimisation.
Nick Baker, senior hub teacher and survey leader, said, "We take a group of around 8-10 senior school students to participate in the surveys and to collate and input the data."
The school has done around 50-60 hours in total over the last two years and parents often come along to assist with the survey management as well.
A locally owned and operated organic and whole foods store, Petal & Bee Grocers, was also featured in this category.
The store supplies refillable glass containers in order to provide an alternative to plastic-packaged products that can be hard to avoid in day-to-day life.
Owner Peta Cherry said, "We also welcome customers bringing in their own reusable containers to purchase from our bulk foods and natural home cleaning products."
Cherry said the support from the town has been fantastic, and really helped her business to reflect the ethos of Whole, Local, Organic, Kind.
Foxton Kindergarten is an Enviroschool and was highlighted in the recycling projects category because of their commitment to reducing waste and developing sustainable practices that educate both tamariki and whānau.
All the food scraps from the children's lunches are fed to their worm farm to divert organic waste from landfill, a simple solution to a significant issue in New Zealand.
Sheree Adams, the kindergarten's head teacher, said, "It's amazing to be part of the Enviroschools programme, role modelling to the children and allowing them to be hands-on involved [with sustainability]."
Under the sustainable tourism category is the Wildlife Foxton Trust, an educational and tourist centre that highlights New Zealand's native flora and fauna in a range of aviaries and terraria.
Nola Fox, secretary/treasurer of the trust, said the centre is the vision of local man Tony Murdoch who was concerned that children were missing out on learning about New Zealand's littlest native creatures.
"This is also a social enterprise in that we have volunteer educators who specialise in the science/ecology field, sharing that knowledge as part of local schools' curriculum for their students," Fox said.
According to Fox, there is huge support and buy-in from the local community, including iwi, for the trust's work.
In the greenhouse gas reduction initiatives category, Foxton Top10 Holiday Park is the first Top10 in the country to achieve the Toitū Envirocare Carbon Zero Certification.
Foxton Top10 measured their full greenhouse gas emissions to assess their carbon footprint to better understand what their impact was on the global climate.
Owner Uwa Kroll and his staff then developed plans to continually manage and reduce their emissions, with the business purchasing verified carbon credits each year to offset any remaining emissions.
"It just makes sense to do the right thing," Kroll said. "As a business we can be accountable for our carbon footprint and still achieve our bottom line."
Tricia Metcalfe, deputy chairwoman of the Foxton Community Board, is really proud of the fact the town is a finalist in this award.
"We're sick of being called a dying town ... there's big buy-in by local businesses and the community ... to make the town sing again," she said.
Robin Hapi, chair of the Save Our River Trust, said, "There can be no argument about the beauty already represented by our town of Foxton ... [but] bringing river flow back into the Foxton River Loop would transform our town and community even more."
Hapi said a river system that enables recreational activities and invites community participation has been an inter-generational aspiration for the people of Foxton.
Foxton Te Awahou showcases multiculturalism at its best, 'weaving together' the community.
Stillwell also said, "[With its] rich, diverse heritage in Whare Manaaki, De Molen, Flax Stripper and the Piriharakeke and Oranjehof museums, Foxton is a vibrant town with a unique blend of Māori and Dutch heritage."
Keep New Zealand Beautiful chief executive Heather Saunderson said the nominations recognised local governments with ambitious goals for environmental improvement.
Unfortunately, the final judging process for the awards has been delayed due to the latest Covid outbreak with both judges based in Auckland.
Saunderson said realistically judging wouldn't be able to occur until a week out of level 2, to give the team sufficient time to coordinate logistics with councils.