Five of New Zealand's top parks and open spaces were recognised at the 2021 New Zealand Parks Awards ceremony, hosted by Recreation Aotearoa.
The Plimmerton Domain Dog Recreation Area (Te Papa Tākaro Kurī o Te Papa Rēhia o Taupō), serviced by Porirua City Council, was named Active Park of the Year. The Active Park Award recognises the park's commitment to accessibility, community engagement, and wellbeing.
The judges were impressed by the thought and collaboration that went into the development of Te Papa Tākaro Kurī o Te Papa Rēhia o Taupō including the bilingual signage. They saw the park as a valuable case study on social, environmental, financial, and sustainable design approaches.
Auckland Botanic Gardens was awarded the Healthy Park of the Year, an award that highlights their impressive natural environment and the work they do to maintain it. With their regular innovative events and collection of native and rare trees, the Auckland Botanic Gardens are leaders in nature education and innovation.
Playground of the Year went to Kopupaka Reserve in the Auckland suburb of Westgate. Another Auckland Council managed park, the judges were wowed by the playground's mission to prevent emissions and support local climate change considerations. With its vibrant colour and edible plantings, one judge commented that that the playground felt like a real "Kiwi backyard."
Thames-Coromandel District Council were presented with the Parks Week Marketing Award in recognition of their fantastic programme encouraging their community to enjoy their local parks during Parks Week 2021.
Sarah Ford, Recreation Aotearoa Marketing Manager said, "We were impressed by the breadth of Parks Week Events put on by the Thames-Coromandel District Council. They made a real effort to host events that could be done under lockdown conditions and accessed by anyone."
Recreation Aotearoa had a new addition to the ceremony, the Parks Person of the Year Award. This was given to Glenn Browne from Auckland Council. Known as Ranger Glenn, Glenn has shown exceptional leadership and innovation in connecting locals to nature. His nominator said, "Through his leadership and innovation, others within Auckland Council are learning from Glenn, and he has created a solid platform for Auckland Council to expand future environmental programmes. He is a true park professional, whose achievements should be celebrated."
The New Zealand Parks Awards have become an important way for Recreation Aotearoa and local communities to recognise the outstanding spaces and places that support activity within the recreation sector.