JAKE BELESKI

jake.beleski@age.co.nz

It’s official – Masterton is the most beautiful city in New Zealand, and Greytown is the most beautiful small town.

Both scooped top awards at last night’s Beautiful Awards gala dinner at the Craggy Range Vineyard in Hastings.

Masterton took out the top prize for Most Beautiful City (population over 20,000), with Greytown and Feilding winning most beautiful small town (population under 5000) and large town (5000 to 20,000), respectively.

The awards, run by the Keep New Zealand Beautiful charitable trust, recognise and celebrate positive actions taken by communities in local and urban areas to protect and enhance their local environments.

The judges said Masterton’s entry blew them away with its wide range of environmental and heritage conservation projects, and the strength of the community engagement “with numerous community groups working hard to make the city a safer and more beautiful community”.

Speaking at the gala dinner last night, Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said it was a great result for the region.

“There’s natural beauty all around Masterton and some outstanding parks and reserves, but the most beautiful thing is our wonderful community.

“This award is for our people and I’m proud to collect it on their behalf.”

The application process involved submitting information on environmental action, community beautification, heritage conservation, community engagement, and historical beauty and tourism.

Each entry also had to put together a visual tour, made up of photos and/or video, of their town which illustrated the results of the hard work.

Masterton beat Napier and Tauranga to win the award, while Greytown was picked ahead of Raglan and Whirinaki.

The judges said Greytown was known for its “great food and sophisticated shopping, cute colonial cottages, historic trees and extraordinary chocolate”.

“The small, owner-operated shops are high quality and distinctive, and Greytown offers the antithesis of big box shopping or bland and samey malls you find in many large centres,” they said.

“This small town is definitely a gem of the Wairarapa.”

Awards were also presented to sustainable schools, businesses and hardworking volunteers throughout New Zealand.

Heather Saunderson, chief executive officer of Keep New Zealand Beautiful, said the Beautiful Awards celebrated all contributions.

“From the most beautiful city, to the volunteer who singlehandedly collected over 700kg of rubbish this year, these awards recognise the places, businesses and people who do the right thing day in and day out to keep New Zealand beautiful.

“We are incredibly proud of the Beautiful Awards and look forward to continuing to grow these awards in 2018.”

The judging panel said there were very strong submissions across all categories, which made selecting the winners incredibly hard.

The trust also runs the ‘Paint Your Cabinet Beautiful’ programme which aims to turn phone cabinets, that are often graffitied, into works of art.