Could the most beautiful thing about Hastings be its Henderson Rd refuse centre?
Because the judges who will decide if it takes the title of "New Zealand's most beautiful large town" made it the first stop on their tour of the city on Thursday.
The Beautiful Awards are annual sustainability awards run by Keep New Zealand Beautiful which celebrate environmental excellence and recognise individuals, towns, businesses, places and communities that work to keep the country beautiful.
Hastings is a finalist in 2020, up against Cambridge for the Most Beautiful Large Town award.
Keep New Zealand Beautiful CEO Heather Saunderson and independent judge Rachel Grunwell arrived to check out the Henderson Rd Refuse Transfer Station on Thursday morning. They'll get a similar tour in Cambridge as it is a part of the judging criteria.
Hastings District Council waste planning manager Angela Atkins told the judges about its recent changes to kerbside recycling and the overall rubbish and recycling systems.
Behind the scenes work on sustainability and rubbish and recycling management is a big part of the judging process.
One of the things Atkins spoke about was the cameras on board the trucks which allow the council to see which houses bins have been emptied and provide information about why they may not have been emptied. It was called a "game-changer" by Saunderson.
Grunwell said the waste minimisation and recycling talked about was "really encouraging and inspiring".
"It's nice to see that the community is on board and has been part of the process."
"Hastings overall is just a beautiful place, with great community-led initiatives, but the waste and recycling space it has definitely taken it up a notch," Saunderson said.
Saunderson said one of things that makes Hastings stand out is its council's consultation with the community.
"You've always had really good community initiatives but over the past few years the consultation process, having community actually engage with council, has been a theme throughout the awards."
The key things the judges were looking for while they went around Hastings was waste minimisation, recycling, community initiatives and some sustainable tourism – although this was less of a focus than other years due to Covid-19.
The judges also visited Cornwall Park, Te Mata Peak information centre and toilet facilities, Tauroa reserve, Queen St, Albert Square, the new Warren St outdoor eating area, development of Eat Street, Landmarks Square and the Toitoi Opera House.
"It was amazing to see the new refuse centre, restored Opera House, and several new park installations," Saunderson said.
"Overall, we were extremely impressed with what Hastings has managed to achieve in 12 months.
"Additionally, I cannot wait to come back and see the water reservoir that will be finished in the next year."
Saunderson said just to make it as a finalist Hastings "is already a winner".
"This year in particular with Covid, it's about celebrating the small wins and really celebrating beautiful behaviour and beautiful towns and cities.
"Regardless of the outcome, the main takeaway is that [Hastings] is doing some amazing work in this space; you've got an engaged community and a council who wants support that community and also teach them."
The winners of the awards will be announced in a virtual livestream on October 29.