Read about the 2016 winners who are making a difference to the environment.

Date:  11 April 2017

Green Ribbon Awards Whatunga te Tangata Toitu te Whenua.

The Green Ribbon Awards are held each year to recognise outstanding contributions by individuals, communities and organisations to protect and manage New Zealand’s environment.

Find out more and enter the 2017 awards on the Green Ribbon Awards website.

2016 winner stories

Resilience to climate change winner (National)


Carbon emissions reductions

Countdown’s commitment to environmental sustainability has seen them reduce their greenhouse gas emissions significantly. They have moved to more efficient refrigerant gases and reduced gas losses; reduced waste to landfill; and are working to reduce truck fuel emissions, and trialling and implementing energy efficient refrigeration and lighting systems. Countdown has held their emissions to 1.8 percent of their 2006 levels, despite floor space increasing by 37 percent, and achieved a 21 percent drop in electricity usage per square metre.

Countdown’s Food Rescue Programme, which diverts food from landfill, also contributes to its emissions reductions, as well as donating approximately 509 tonnes of food to those in need.

Business leadership Winner (National)

Air New Zealand

Sustainability Programme

Air New Zealand has made a commitment to improving sustainability performance, by focusing on two key areas. Firstly, to reduce its climate change impact by reducing aviation emissions and investigating renewable energy options; and secondly through support of conservation projects. Air New Zealand is acutely aware that their brand and tourism are based on the quality of the environment, and are investing in a modern fleet and operating it as efficiently as possible. They are also developing a genuinely impactful offsetting programme, and supporting climate science through partnership with Antarctica NZ.

Air New Zealand is improving their sustainability performance, and seeing how they can do better, by taking external advice and critique. Working in partnership, they are helping to bring back birdsong to our Great Walks, and also transport endangered species around New Zealand, and enable monitoring of our marine reserves. In-flight documentaries showcasing these help raise the profile of this work.

Minimising our waste winner (National)

Foodstuffs New Zealand

Recyclable butchery trays

Imagine 80 million non-recyclable supermarket butchery trays – they’d fill at least 14 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This is the number of trays that will be diverted from New Zealand’s landfill in this year, thanks to innovation by Foodstuffs and Alto Packaging. They’ve developed fully recyclable plastic food trays, which are now used in 190 Foodstuffs (NZ) supermarkets nationwide – and are being rolled out to more.

The new trays are 50 percent recycled plastic, and 100 percent recyclable. Foodstuffs have spent a number of years working with Alto Packaging to develop the trays, engaging with Auckland Council and Visy Recycling. The trays are exclusive to Foodstuffs supermarkets until the end of 2016, but will then be available to other businesses, with the potential to make an even bigger difference to New Zealand’s landfill waste.

Protecting our biodiversity winner

Uawanui Project Governance Group (East Coast)

Uawanui Project

Collaborative and innovative, the Uawanui Project has taken a whole-community approach to improving the environmental health of the Kaituna Estuary, by managing the activities in the catchment that impact on the estuary – a “mountains-to-sea” approach.

Input from marae, iwi, individuals, business, primary industries, landowners and schools has developed a project that enables the community to manage the catchment in their everyday activities, with direct benefits to both the community’s and the environment’s health. Activities have included trapping pests, weed control, planting and monitoring. Creative thinking has led to planting of seeds from Cook’s first collections, transit of Venus celebrations, and archaeological investigations – building on the area’s history, and adding to the local community’s knowledge of their culture and where they have come from.

Caring for our water winner (Waikato)

Waikato Rivercare Incorporated

Riparian restoration

A big, bold project, RiverCare’s riparian restoration has been working to improve water quality in the lower Waikato River for over 16 years. From planting 32,000 native plants in 2015 alone, and carrying out fencing and ongoing weed control, to commissioning an independent review to evaluate and improve their methods, RiverCare has worked tirelessly to restore the riparian margins of this important and high profile waterway. This work has created self-sustaining communities of native plants, which trap sediment and use run-off nutrients before they reach the river. Fencing protects the plantings by keeping stock from grazing or trampling them.

RiverCare also share their learnings with others interested in riparian restoration, adding to the general store of knowledge available to new projects. They have collaborated with a wide range of agencies, and shown innovation in their agreements with landowners to maintain fences and planting, improving the long-term sustainability of the work.

Philanthropy and partnership winner (Northland)

WWF New Zealand and New Zealand Landcare Trust

Reconnecting Northland

Pulling together potential collaborators in a committed and truly visionary space, this project has created Aotearoa New Zealand’s first large-scale ecological restoration programme. Guided by Northland-based staff and a steering group, the programme encourages community-initiated projects to connect and work together, sharing energy, resources and knowledge, to create scale in their work. Reconnecting Northland is funded by three philanthropic organisations, demonstrating a new model for funders and non-government organisations to work together.

The Tindall Foundation’s vision is to help build a stronger, sustainable Aotearoa New Zealand, enabling families, communities and the natural environment to thrive. This works well with community trust Foundation North (working in Auckland and Northland) who since 1988 have committed more than a billion dollars to support the region’s not-for-profit sector. The third partner is the HSBC Water Programme, a five-year programme launched in 2012, to provide and protect water sources, inform and educate communities, enable people to prosper, and to drive economic development across the world. The partners use the common areas of their visions to pool their resources, and work together to achieve much more than they could have independently.

Kaitiaki leadership winner (Bay of Plenty)

Ian Tarei

Ian Tarei embodies kaitiakitanga, providing an example and leadership for current and future generations. Ian manages the Omataroa Kiwi Project, which controls pests and predators on nearly 7800 hectares of native and exotic forest, increasing survival rates for kiwi and other native species. It’s been Ian’s tenacity and drive that have kept the project going in the face of early funding problems, and he now mentors other iwi conservation projects to share the kaupapa and encourage others.

Addressing the declining population of not only kiwi, but also kereru and North Island robins, the environmental benefits of the Omataroa Kiwi Project have been significant, with kiwi survival rates up over 50 percent. Established in a resource-stricken area with minimal support, it has been the passion of this small group of individuals that has driven the project over many years. The team also has an educational focus, working with schools, teaching pest control and passing on matauranga Māori, and training local people to undertake the work in the longer term.

Leadership in communication and education winner (Auckland)

St Cuthbert's College

Kahunui remote campus

Living in the bush for 28 days sounds challenging, but St Cuthbert’s exciting Kahunui programme is developing a new generation of environment kaitiaki.

During their full immersion learning experience, the girls complete a social living, academic and outdoor programme. Using an innovative model and inquiry processes, students drive their learning to solve real environmental sustainability problems, developing life-long attitudes and values. Back at the main school campus, learnings and data are added to the Kahupedia wiki, to share knowledge with the school community and support the ongoing development of the Kahunui environment. Students are also encouraged to transfer the sustainable practices they have learnt to home, school and their community.

Community leadership winner and Supreme Winner (Auckland)

Te Whangai Trust

Community biodiversity

An innovative social solution, Te Whangai Trust’s community biodiversity project changes people’s lives in a meaningful and sustained way, by teaching them skills while working to restore and support the natural environment. Providing 500,000 eco-sourced native plants, education, advisory skills and over 156,000 volunteer hours each year, Te Whangai has made huge environmental strides in the Waikato region, restoring ecosystems, wildlife corridors and waterways.

Participants develop skills and future prospects through the project, and a sense of pride and accomplishment, in an activity-based learning platform. The project aims to place participants into full-time work at the end of the programme, allowing them to contribute back to the community.

Other 2016 regional finalist stories

Kaitiaki Leadership finalist (Waikato)

Keith and Mercia Wood

 “It would be quicker and easier to list what he doesn't do for the iwi, hapu, marae, whanau! Actually come to think of it... I can't think of anything he doesn't do for the everyone, including the wider community. Keith is the perfect example of a rangatira, mentor, in everything we do.”

In 20 years of working for the Ngati Rangi Trust, Keith Wood has seen them through the evolution of the Resource Management Act, helped develop the region’s water management plan, and was key to establishing the Genesis Energy Relationship Agreement.  This nomination is not about a single project, but the significant contribution by Keith, and his wife Mercia, to their marae, whanau, hapu, iwi and wider community.  They have helped to improve the health of the environment, but have also worked to create understanding between scientific concepts and Maori ideas and values. Their contribution has been extensive – not only locally, but also nationally and internationally.

Finalist in Philanthropy and partnership (West Coast)

Conservation Volunteers New Zealand

Punakaiki Coastal Restoration Project

You wouldn’t often think to transform a mining site into a nature reserve, but this is exactly what the project partners have done, to create Te Ara Taiko Nature Reserve at Punakaiki. A significant contribution to ecosystem and species protection, the project has focused on restoring an ecological corridor from the mountains to sea, and providing environmental, social and economic benefits to the local community. The corridor includes the only nesting place for the vulnerable Westland petrel, enhancing their chances of survival. The project has become a genuine community-focused restoration project, with over 700 volunteers involved.

Partners involved include Rio Tinto Ltd, The Department of Conservation, Lincoln University, and the project manager, Conservation Volunteers New Zealand. Critical to the success of the project, Rio Tinto has contributed above and beyond standard obligations, and all partners continue to engage with goodwill and commitment.

Finalist in Philanthropy and partnership (Wellington)

Mike Rathbone

Dynamis Project

An innovative example of an individual making a difference, the Dynamis Project is an online resource to help schools become more self-sufficient.  Through the project, schools can investigate whether alternative energy is for them – from assessing feasibility, to sourcing grants, getting quotes and applying for local council approval.

Set up, run and paid for by Mike Rathbone in his spare time, the Dynamis Project targets schools, who act as a hub for engaging with entire communities through teachers, children and parents. Monthly monitoring data show schools are achieving significant reductions of power costs and CO2 emissions, lowering their carbon footprints. The project is quietly achieving results, while exposing future decision-makers to the benefits of energy sustainability. There is potential for the project to expand to a large number of schools.

Protecting our Biodiversity finalist (Otago)

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Biodiversity Restoration

Finalist in protecting our biodiversity category. This award recognises practical actions to protect and preserve New Zealand’s unique species and enhance our biodiversity.

An ambitious coastal forest and ecosystem restoration project, Orokonui Ecosanctuary has reintroduced threatened species, created an Otago rare plants garden, established a Pa Harakeke (flax grove for iwi weavers), and planted 12,500 trees. Using a predator-proof fence, the project has eradicated mammalian pests in the ecosanctuary, which now provides a safe habitat for species such as rifleman and tuatara, and breeding programmes for kiwi, takahe and kaka.

Orokonui has used a volunteer model to create community pride and ownership in the project, including education programmes, workshops, guided tours, and information sharing.

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