Innovative projects designed to protect the marine environment and to promote responsible dog ownership have won two Northland councils finalist places in the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Excellence Awards.

The Northland Regional Council's marine biosecurity programme is a finalist in the award for environmental impact, while the Far North District Council is a finalist in the community engagement category with its Ngā Kurī Auau o Kaikohe project.

The NRC was the first council in the country to bring marine pests into its pest management plan and propose a region-wide Marine Pathway plan, aimed at educating the community on the threats posed by of marine pests, pursuing new technologies and actively checking the hulls of more than 2000 vessels every year.

The award judges praised the initiative for taking a lead in addressing a significant problem and attempting to deal with a very significant challenge.

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The FNDC's Ngā Kurī Auau o Kaikohe was a targeted, community-based social marketing project aimed at encouraging dog compliance and promoting responsible dog ownership, in response to a high number of dog attacks.

It included a successful social media campaign, with animal management officers engaging with dog owners in known problem areas to promote 'Dog Day' events in Kaikohe and Kaitāia, which were also attended by vets, police dogs and DoC conservation dogs.

Messaging focused on caring over compliance and built on the loyalty between dog and owner. As part of the campaign, the council offered free neutering, microchipping and registration for dogs engaged with the programme.

Outcomes included a 42 per cent drop in the number of reported dog attacks on people and animals in the quarter following the Kaikohe event, and a marked increase in 'peer to peer' leadership demonstrated on social channels. Education opportunities and targeted programmes have now been built into the animal management team's work plan.

LGNZ president Dave Cull said being named a finalist was a significant achievement, reflecting strong leadership and the innovative work being delivered by councils across the country.

"The finalists include some exceptional projects that are having a profound impact on communities. The finalists all demonstrate innovation, excellence in communication and consultation to involve communities in the decisions and planning that frame their future," he said.

"Overall the judges felt that the strongest entries demonstrated a strong strategic focus, clear outcomes, measured results, cost-benefit analysis and engagement with external organisations, particularly a collaborative approach with stakeholders, and meaningful engagement with iwi and Māori."

The awards will be presented in Christchurch on July 16.