Whanganui will attempt to defend its title of New Zealand's Most Beautiful City in this year's Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards, which celebrate environmental excellence.

For the second year in a row, Whanganui has been named a finalist in the category.

Whanganui beat Hutt City last year and, in 2020, will go head-to-head with Hamilton for the title.

Two of the three Best Street finalists are also in Whanganui - Rangiora St and Victoria Ave from Taupo Quay to Ingestre St. They are up against Main St, Cambridge. Last year, Whanganui's Ridgway St won the Best Street title.

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There's also recognition for Progress Castlecliff which is one of three finalists for the Community Group Award.

"Whanganui's achievement in being a finalist in two categories, and now a third, in successive years is exceptional," mayor Hamish McDouall said.

"This demonstrates the pride and commitment of our community to maintaining its built heritage and natural environment. It acknowledges the initiatives local community groups have undertaken, often with council help, towards the sustainability and beautification of our city."

Whanganui District Council's Most Beautiful City entry highlighted collaborations by the council and several organisations, including roading contractor Downer, to establish a diversion for waste from construction and demolition sites, as well as the council's ongoing support of local sustainability agencies to provide services and programmes to combat litter and educate the community about better options for managing waste.

Work to support the rejuvenation of heritage buildings, many of which received support from the council's Heritage Grant Fund, was also part of the entry.

District councillor Helen Craig said the Most Beautiful City award would take into account the whole city, which the judges "will take on merit".

"I think we are outstanding in terms of everything we've done," Craig said.

"I'm sure [Hamilton] will give us a run for our money."

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Victoria Ave, between Taupo Quay and Ingestre St, is in the running to be named New Zealand's Best Street. Photo / Bevan Conley
Victoria Ave, between Taupo Quay and Ingestre St, is in the running to be named New Zealand's Best Street. Photo / Bevan Conley

Craig and Mainstreet Whanganui nominated the stretch of Victoria Ave from Taupo Quay to Ingestre St for the Best Street award. It recognises the New Zealand street that clearly stands out for its beauty, cleanliness, plantings and sense of community pride.

"It's not just about beauty," Craig said.

"It's around environmental initiatives you have undertaken. When I wrote a list of everything we have done in the last 12 months, it's extensive."

Initiatives included recycling rubbish bins installed as a trial in Majestic Square, bike stands throughout the central business district, water fountains, fairy lights installed by Mainstreet in co-operation with the Town Centre Regeneration Group as part of the Light Up the Night project, the public toilet in the Guyton-Ingestre block and the alleyway beside Embassy 3 in the bottom block, Craig said.

"We're forever cleaning pavements, sweeping leaves up, pulling out trees when they get too big and replacing them, having the cobbles redone - it's a huge commitment," she said.

"Mainstreet have done the heritage plaques, the ironwork that was green is being painted a beautiful black, there are the gaslights and hanging baskets and flowering beds. The Town Centre Regeneration Group and Mainstreet have been working on a lot of initiatives."

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The rejuvenation of Rangiora St has earned it a place in the Best Street award finals. Photo / Lewis Gardner
The rejuvenation of Rangiora St has earned it a place in the Best Street award finals. Photo / Lewis Gardner

The Rangiora St entry, by district councillor James Barron and Progress Castlecliff, focused on the street's rejuvenation, creating a sense of community pride and vibrancy.

"Rangiora St has had an amazing journey of rejuvenation in a very short timeframe," Barron said.

"From bleak, overlooked and abandoned to a rejuvenation vision realised and exceeded, our garden-lined street is buzzing with art, business, café/restaurant, public library, gallery and more."

Craig said both nominated streets were "looking incredible" and both had been entered in the awards because improvement work had been completed during the year.

"Rangiora St is amazing. I think it really deserves that recognition - it's looking stunning."

Progress Castlecliff secretary Mary Ellen Goodsir said she was delighted the group was a finalist in the Community Group Award.

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"Thank you, Keep New Zealand Beautiful for recognising Progress Castlecliff for our advocacy and boots-on groundwork, expressing our community mana and pride through the restoration of our seaside community," Goodsir said.

Although this year there is a Most Beautiful Large Town category, Whanganui is again up for the city award.

"Historically, the Beautiful Towns and Cities Awards have been aligned with Statistics New Zealand's classification system," Keep New Zealand Beautiful chief executive Heather Saunderson said.

"This system has been revised since our previous awards. Whanganui won our Most Beautiful City Award in 2019 and identifies as a city. In light of this, we felt that there would be mass confusion, and thereby granted Whanganui with an exception. We will be reviewing our criteria for 2021 to ensure our awards are more inclusive to the whole of New Zealand, and that all communities are represented in the award category that they associate with."

The award winners will be announced on October 29.