The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust has confirmed that the 2021/2022 Ballance Farm Environment Awards will proceed as planned, despite interruptions due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The trust said it had received "a pleasing number of entries" across the country, even with the disruption caused by changes to alert levels in Auckland, Northland and Waikato.
This allowed the competition to continue, albeit with some adjustments to ensure the safety of all involved, trust chair Joanne van Polanen said.
"It is more important than ever that the great initiatives and work being done by farmers and growers is being celebrated and shared with others."
Regional committees had worked hard with farmers and growers in their communities to ensure "a worthwhile and rewarding" programme could be completed, Van Polanen said.
While the full judging process would be reduced to one round in order to limit contact between participants and the judging panel, it would not impact the process, Van Polanen said.
"We have carefully planned and adapted our usual practices to ensure that judging is still
thorough and complete and entrants will still receive the valuable feedback that makes entering the awards so worthwhile."
The trust also required all judges and entrants to be fully vaccinated, Van Polanen said.
"Whilst we respect that individuals have the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated, the community nature of our programme, including awards functions and field day events means that to align with the Government's Covid protection framework, it is the Trust's policy that all [awards] entrants are required to be vaccinated."
"We hope that entrants will appreciate that this decision is in the best interests of all involved.
"We have a large number of people involved in the awards and we need to ensure we are running a safe programme for all."
Entries for the standard awards programme are now closed, but the new Catchment Group Award was open until the end of November.
The award recognises the efforts of a rural community group working together to improve water quality in local rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands.
The Ballance Farm Environment Awards regional groups continued to work with NZ Landcare Trust to encourage catchment groups to enter this new award.