2023 Parks Award Winners


Last night Recreation Aotearoa celebrated the New Zealand parks, play, and open spaces industry at the annual NZ Parks Awards in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Four awards were presented at the Parks Awards ceremony, including Active Park of the Year, Healthy Park of the Year, Playground of the Year, and Parks Person of the Year.


Active Park of the Year

Flaxmere Park, Hastings District Council was the 2023 winner of the Active Park of the Year. Providing a fantastic green space that encourages the Pā Harakeke (Flaxmere) residents to get out and be active is of paramount importance to the community. That, by extension, makes it a huge priority for Hastings District Council and its parks team. To achieve that, the park itself needs to be 'active', with the broadest range of activities catered for and a 'look and feel' that makes it a space the people want to be in. The Pā Harakeke community, with the support of Council, has achieved that and everyone involved can be very proud.


Healthy Park of the Year

Healthy Park of the Year went to Nelson City Council’s Te Pā Harakeke Reserve. Te Pā Harakeke is a new community playground located at the Tāhunanui Beach Reserve, which was built to replace an underutilized pond and railway space. The playground features natural play equipment and materials that reflect the nearby beach and estuary, and was designed with the input of the community and iwi.


Playground of the Year

Kāpiti Coast District Council took away Playground of the Year with Lorna Irene Reserve Playground. The playground has been redesigned to become a fully accessible and inclusive play space for the local community and beyond. Working with disability advocates and following the principles of universal design, the playground features wheelchair-accessible equipment such as a seesaw and tower, sensory play opportunities, and a safe space for all to enjoy.


Parks Person of the Year

The final award of the evening was Parks Person of the Year. This award recognises a person within parks and open spaces who demonstrates outstanding effort to forward public parks through good management, sustainability, and innovation. Stuart Leighton of Auckland Council was this year’s recipient.
Stu has been a Ranger in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park for 26 years. He has shown innovation through his involvement in internationally recognized projects such as the West Coast Rock Fishing project and the kauri dieback track development programme.

Recreation Aotearoa CEO, Sarah Murray, said, “The 2023 New Zealand Parks Awards celebrate and honour the visionary and inclusive leaders, projects, and initiatives that are transforming our public spaces. These awards provide an opportunity for us to come together as a sector to recognize and learn from these outstanding examples of creativity, sustainability, and community engagement. Through their amazing work across Aotearoa, this year’s winners inspire and empower more people to connect with nature, play, and each other."

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