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We want to find New Zealand's best beach — and we need your help to do it.

The Herald's Best Beach series will run through January and it all starts with entries from Herald readers, so tell us which beach you think is the nation's finest.

We've assembled a panel of beach experts who will wade through readers' submissions and sift them down to a shortlist. Associate Professor Karin Bryan, of Waikato University, studies the dynamics of sediments and nutrients in coastal environments. The chief executive of Surf Life Saving NZ Northern Region, Matt Williams, is a beach lover with a unique eye for safety, and our third judge is singer-songwriter Jamie McDell, a surfer who fell in love with the ocean as a kid.

The judges will whittle down the readers' selections to a shortlist of 10 great beaches. Through January, the Herald will be publishing profiles of these coastal contenders and readers will be able to vote to find the ultimate winner. At the end of the month, we will be naming New Zealand's Best Beach.

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So what will the judges be looking for? Local amenities (things like toilets, food vendors and parking); Family friendliness (are there playgrounds? Is the water safe? How far away is the nearest ice cream shop?); Green credentials (water and sand quality); and "X-factor" (hidden spots and historic tales could elevate your beach to No 1).

Any stretch of New Zealand's coastline could make the final list and lakeside beaches are eligible for entry, too.

The final choice is up to you. It's our sincere hope that in the next few weeks, Kiwis will diligently research the subject. Apply sunscreen, put your sunnies on and get some sand under your jandals.

We're expecting a fierce debate, with lines drawn (in the sand). For some, the isolated beauty of New Chums will appeal, others might prefer the endless sunset of Ninety Mile Beach or the rugged appeal of Karioitahi or Oreti. Why not Cheltenham — surely one of the sweetest urban beaches in the world — or one of the many magical spots in Abel Tasman National Park?

Obviously, this is all a bit of fun. But the search for New Zealand's best beach is also a great opportunity to reinforce important messages about water safety, and the responsibility we all share to care for our beaches and waterways.

To enter your favourite beach in the running, just complete the form above. You can make a 100-word submission arguing the merits of your favourite stretch of sand, and you can send us a photo, too.

May the best beach win.


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