The newly developed Waikato Sport & Active Recreation Awards are here to stay following a successful revamped awards season in 2020 when Covid-19 forced Sport Waikato to reimagine the way they celebrate and acknowledge play, active recreation and sport in the Waikato region.
“Covid-19 threw us a curve ball in 2020, but the positive out of it was that it gave us an opportunity to realign our awards season at a community level. What eventuated was a very heartwarming, local and community focused celebration where we were able to acknowledge innovation, partnerships, collaboration, diversity and best of all - the people doing the work. It was so successful and well received that we decided to respect the past but look to this as our new format for the future,” said Matthew Cooper, CEO of Sport Waikato. 
The 2021 Waikato Sport & Active Recreation Awards encouraged nominations from those in the community who go above and beyond to deliver programmes and initiatives that meet the needs of the participant and help create a more active region. 
“We think it’s time that we recognise those who do the work at a community level – those creating initiatives that are aimed at participation, the local organisations and people providing inclusive opportunities, the collaborative partnerships and those innovating to meet the needs of the participants. And this year we’ve included coaching, ‘unsung heroes’ and youth engagement to the categories,” said Cooper.
“We’re also excited that while last year’s awards were celebrated online, this year finalists will be invited to a special event in January 2022 to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements, and announce the winners.” 
The new awards format aligns with Sport Waikato’s partnered strategy, Moving Waikato, and shift to working at a strategic level to support and grow the capability of those who influence play, active recreation and sport in our region, with the aim to grow participation to at least 75% by 2030. 
“We love sport, and we love elite sport. But elite sportspeople are often looked after, acknowledged and celebrated within their codes and at a high level at the Halberg Awards. Who’s looking after, acknowledging and celebrating those at community level? These people, these initiatives are doing some incredible work in play, active recreation and sport, often unpaid and underfunded, and it’s time that we put the spotlight on them. These are the people who are helping to drive participation rates up by providing what the participants want, and ensuring a positive experience to keep them coming back,” said Cooper. 
Among this year’s finalists, there are some really innovative initiatives from around the region; Into Nature School in the Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion category, a five acre kahikatea bush ‘classroom’ where children work together to be imaginative, creative, communicative, physical and genuinely engaged with full sensory stimulation. 
Nawton’s skatepark refurbishment is a finalist in the Outstanding Active Space Initiative category, nominated by the Western Community Centre’s Neil Tolan – “The refurbishment has been a game changer and allows for a greater amount of people to use the space at the same time. Numbers using the space have at least tripled.”
There were a large and diverse number of entries in the new Community Coach category, with some great local community coaches among the finalists – two from the King Country (one of which was nominated seven times) and a young coach from Hamilton, 23 year old Alyssa Hirawani. Nominator Jenn Te Whare said “Lila has a massive focus on fun within her teams. She is firm but fair, and knows how to create an amazing team culture, where the team comes first and not the individual.
Nominations have all been judged again this year by local judges from the sector – athlete, disability sport advisor and Sky Sport presenter Honey Hireme-Smiler, commentator and Waikato radio broadcaster Graeme ‘Mintie’ Mead and Waikato River Trails General Manager Glyn Wooller. 
“We’ve been absolutely honoured to judge these awards for the second year. We thought last year was amazing, but the entries this year are just outstanding. It’s been a privilege to be a judge of these awards, and to read about the work that is happening around the region – it’s phenomenal. Congratulations to all the finalists,” said Graeme Mead.
The finalists are:
Community Connection Award: Those people or organisations that develop programmes that create connection and a great experience for its members or participants. 

  • Tokoroa Blades
  • Parafed Waikato
  • Te Ara Tukutuku (Te Awamutu Sports)
Sport & Active Recreation Partnership Award: Two or more organisations working together to achieve a physical activity outcome goal.
  • Junior Festival of Rugby 
  • Ride Coromandel Bike Park Development
  • Get Waikato Swimming! (Swimming Waikato)
Outstanding Active Space Initiative: Any programme or initiative that's held in a space such as community halls, parks, gullies, rivers - wherever a space has been used to help people be active.
  • Tamariki & Rangatahi have Got to Get Out
  • Nawton Skate Park Refurbishment
  • Ride Coromandel Bike Park
Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion: Programmes or initiatives that are aimed at (for example) women/girls, ethnic minority groups, disability or cultural/religious groups to enable those people to be more active.
  • Te Awamutu Group Riding for the Disabled
  • Everybody’s Game (The WaterBoy) 
  • Into Nature School
Community Unsung Hero: NEW CATEGORY: Those unpaid, unsung heroes/volunteers that have made a real difference in the last 12 months to an initiative or organisation.
  • Peter van Vroonhoven
  • Peter Loft
  • Rex Hohaia
Community Coach: NEW CATEGORY: A community coach who creates positive team culture, provides a great experience and encourages fair play and commitment to Balance is Better/Good Sports principles.
  • Sandy Katipa-Maikuku
  • Alyssa Hirawani
  • Nano (Rangi) Te Whare
Commitment to Youth Engagement: NEW CATEGORY: Those people or programmes who support young people (0-24), and help to grow the numbers of young people being more active. 
  • Restarting Youth Sailing in Mercury Bay
  • The WaterBoy Sponsorship Programme
  • Perry Outdoor Education Trust (POET) 
Congratulations to every person and initiative that was nominated this year – we value and acknowledge all the incredible work you do to keep our communities active. 
Finalists will be published on Sport Waikato social media channels, and you can view all nominations at
Finalists and their supporters are invited to a special event on Thursday 27th January 2022 in Hamilton where winners will be announced. 
Lisa Bishop | Communications & Marketing Lead
021 240 9171 |

Finalists announced in the 2021 Waikato Sport & Active Recreation Awards

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