The CRC Bay of Islands Sailing Week, New Zealand's biggest multi-day keelboat regatta, has been awarded Gold Level Clean Regattas certification for its "extraordinary waste management efforts" at this year's event in January.

Ocean conservation group Sailors for the Sea operates the Clean Regattas programme, which it claims to be the world's leading sustainability certification for on-water events.

Sailing Week chairwoman Manuela Gmuer-Hornell said the award was a clear indicator of the organisers' commitment to operating in an environmentally responsible way.

"We're all sailors, organisers and participants, and we all love the ocean," she said, "so it's important we do our bit to protect it. The beauty of the local area is a big drawcard for us too, so we want to preserve it for the future."

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The gold level certification had come as a surprise to the organisers, who had been hoping for silver level in their first year in the programme.

Regatta administrator Cath Beaumont said the committee had set out with achievable goals that it could build on in the future.

"The most important thing is to start somewhere because even doing one thing is better than doing nothing."

The regatta's sustainability initiatives included waste minimisation, carbon reduction,
buying local, educating participants and engaging with sustainability partners.

"We really looked at every aspect of what we do to see if we can be more sustainable," Gmuer-Hornell said.

"One of the simplest changes was switching to reusable bottles with free water refilling stations. If you consider there's probably 1000 sailors and volunteers drinking at least a couple of bottles of water a day, over three days, that saved 6000 single-use plastic bottles alone."

The committee had worked with Russell Recyclers to help with waste minimisation, composting and recycling wherever possible, which resulted in a 75 per cent reduction in waste going to landfill, and used video conferencing for committee meetings to eliminate travel, created an app to communicate important documents digitally instead of printing them, and enforced a no-discharge rule for competitors to eliminate pollution from boats on the water.