A small rural kindergarten near Whangārei has shone above almost 40 other finalists to take out the supreme award at the Northland Regional Council's inaugural Environmental Awards.

Comrie Park Kindergarten, a 44-pupil kindy at Matarau, has a long-time passion for environmental sustainability and its head teacher Anna Alexander, the kindergarten's staff and the rural community it supports are thrilled with the win.

About 200 people attended the awards at Whangārei's Barge Showgrounds Event Centre on Thursday night. The presentations to the winners of the eight categories and the Supreme Award were made more poignant by two impromptu kaha and several waiata.

Comrie Park Kindergarten won for its general philosophy/kaupapa of environmental care and sustainability which is embedded and interconnected in all its activities. The practice extends beyond the kindy gate, with the children taking part in community planting and other projects.

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As well as being named the most outstanding entry, the kindergarten won the education category, specific to schools, kura Māori, early childhood centres or tertiary institutions, and can include the whole school, groups or individuals.

The Environmental Awards recognise and celebrate kaitiakitanga in action in many ways and highlight the ''can-do'' attitudes and remarkable contributions many Northlanders from all walks of life make to help the environment thrive.

More than 90 nominations were received for the first awards of their kind, with 39 finalists shortlisted.

Council chairman Bill Shepherd said the council is pleased with and excited by the interest the awards have generated and hopes to make them an annual event.

"Nominees represented a truly diverse cross section of Northland and included individuals, groups and community group leaders, iwi, farmers, forestry and schools,'' he said.

"My fellow councillors and I really appreciate the effort that people have put into making these inaugural awards such a success – and in particular all those who made nominations – and look forward to growing these awards in the years to come."

An initial 93 awards nominees were shortlisted to 39 finalists by a panel of four external experts and internal staff; Chris Jenkins (local environmental champion and a former Department of Conservation veteran), Mike Kake (representing the Tai Tokerau Maori and Council Working Party) and council staff Don McKenzie (Biosecurity Manager) and Tess Dacre (Compliance Monitoring Manager).

The winners in each category received a $1000 cash prize and trophy, with Comrie Park receiving a carved wooden supreme winner's trophy it will hold for one year.

A public field day will be held later this year for winners to share their knowledge and experience and showcase their work with the rest of the community. The winners were:
• Environmental action in the community; Friends of Matakohe-Limestone Island Society (FOMLI)
• Environmental action in pest management; Puketotara Landcare Group
• Environmental action in education; Comrie Park Kindergarten
• Environmental action in water quality improvement; Whitebait Connection
• Environmental action in industry; Hancock Forest Management NZ - Northland Office
• Environmental leadership; Iwi Te Roroa – Waipoua Forest
• Environmental innovation; Steve Allan
• Kaitiakitanga; Noho Taiao, Te Rarawa Anga Mua
For more visit www.nrc.govt.nz/environmentalawards