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And the winners are...! NZEA NZ Event Awards 2021

26 July 2022

Media Release 27.7.22

A long time coming: NZEA NZ Event Awards recognise the nation’s top fixtures and event professionals

In finally hosting its annual Event Awards Gala Evening, the NZ Event Association (NZEA) has experienced first-hand the frustration, heartbreak, challenges, and ultimately triumphs faced by its members over the past two years.

As the events industry emerges from a long Covid-induced hiatus, the NZEA has announced the winners of its 2021 Awards after its premier gathering finally took place in Hastings, more than 15 months and four postponements later. An enthusiastic crowd of nearly 350 event professionals from across the country made the trip to Toitoi - Hawke's Bay Arts and Events Centre to celebrate the industry’s best.

It was a great night out much anticipated after so much disruption for the sector to celebrate excellence, innovation, resilience and evolution in New Zealand’s world-class events industry. The new but appropriate ‘Best COVID Response for an Event 2021’ category proved to be the most popular, representing over a quarter of all entries with three winners sharing the win: Boma New Zealand with its Boma COVID-19 Virtual Summit, the Stuff Ports of Auckland Round the Bays, and CORE Education’s uLearn20.

Topping the individual accolades is Valentina Paladini, named Best Established Event Professional, while Cuillin Hearty won the Emerging Event Professional category. The Best Arts or Cultural Event went to Kitchen Takeover – Taiao: Food of the Gods.

The ‘Best Major or Mega Event’ category was taken out by the 36th America’s Cup with a joint entry from America’s Cup Event Ltd, Auckland Council Group and the New Zealand Government. “It’s great to be celebrating excellence in Major Events at a time when such events are much needed to attract international tourists again” says NZ Events Association (NZEA) General Manager Ségolène de Fontenay. Three additional category winners were also associated with the AC36, including PPG Events taking out two Awards for their work on the Toyota Hospitality Experience and Platform 4 Group winning the Best Supplier Award for their security work at the Cup Village.  

A total of 17 awards were made in three categories, for an industry that generates billions of dollars of economic activity every year.

De Fontenay says pulling its own event off has laid out the stark reality and enormous difficulties faced by the industry over the past two years. ”Organising any event depends on managing multiple moving parts, including suppliers, guests, entertainment, catering and more. With COVID presenting an unpredictable additional dimension, organisers have truly had their backs against the wall,” she notes.

“However, we’ve seen incredible resilience and the classic Kiwi Number 8 wire ‘can do’ attitude emerge from events professionals, who have persevered and put up with unimaginable difficulties with dogged determination. That makes this edition of our awards particularly poignant – and, after being kept apart for so long, it’s fair to say everyone made the most of our NZEA NZ Event Awards Gala Evening.”

Praising the consistently high standard of award entries, with a total of 108 events vying for the judges’ nod across 17 categories including sports, arts and culture, community, corporate social responsibility and business events, individuals, venues, sponsors and suppliers, de Fontenay says it is an honour to recognise excellence not only from the winners, but also from every finalist. “The entries not only entertain the nation but in the case of business events, also accelerate the economy." De Fontenay adds that economic activity underpins societal wellbeing. “You cannot underestimate the value of the events industry to the wellbeing of New Zealanders across economic, social and environmental spheres and ultimately the health and prosperity of a nation’s people,” she stresses. “ It’s a big well done from all of us at NZEA.”

There is also a public vote for New Zealand’s Favourite Event of the Year; the crowd-pleaser this year is the TSB Festival of Lights from New Plymouth District Council.

“With such high standards, I’d like to congratulate all our finalists and most importantly, those winners who took home an award tonight,” adds de Fontenay.

She concludes by noting the NZ Events Association encourages all Kiwis to support the people who enrich the economy, connect businesses, build New Zealand’s unique culture and deliver world class entertainment and leisure and business platforms through vibrant events every year. “Our country’s events ecosystem keeps us engaged, educated, connected, networked and entertained. Join us in celebrating those who make it happen, no matter what.”

The winners are:

Individual Awards

Best Emerging Event Professional 2021 - Sponsored by ChristchurchNZ
Cuillin Hearty

Best Established Event Professional 2021
Valentina Paladini

Best Event Sponsorship Professional 2021
Matt Davy

Excellence Awards

Best Arts or Cultural Event 2021
Kitchen Takeover – Taiao: Food of the Gods

Best Business Event 2021 - Sponsored by ChristchurchNZ
Toyota Hospitality Experience – 36th America’s Cup , PPG Events

Best Community or Not-for-Profit Event 2021 - Sponsored by Kennedy Park
CupaDupa, Creative Capital Arts Trust

Best COVID-19 Response for an Event 2021 - Sponsored by ChristchurchNZ
Boma COVID-19 Virtual Summit, Boma New Zealand
Ports of Auckland Round the Bays, Stuff
uLearn20, CORE Education

Best Event Marketing 2021
ASB for The ASB Sustainaball – ASB Classic 

Best Lifestyle Event 2021 - Sponsored by Big Barrell (In association with Peroni Italy)
Kitchen Takeover - Eat Your Memories

Best Local Government Event 2021
TSB Festival of Lights, New Plymouth District Council

Best Major or Mega Event 2021
The 36th America’s Cup, Auckland Unlimited

Best Music Event 2021 - Sponsored by Red Badge
Rhythm and Vines

Best Sports Event 2021 - Sponsored by Kennedy Park
ASB Classic, Tennis Auckland 

Support Awards

Best Event Creative 2021
PPG Events for the Toyota Hospitality Experience – 36th America’s Cup

Best Event Use of Technology 2021
New Plymouth District Council for Oxfam Trailwalker

Best Supplier 2021
Platform 4 Group for the 36th America’s Cup Village

Best Venue 2021 - Sponsored by Trinity Hill
Claudelands Oval for SIX60 Saturdays

Achievement Awards

Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award 2021- Sponsored by Kennedy Park
Te Rangi Huata
Anne Hindson

New Zealand's Favourite Event 2021 - Sponsored by Fresh Info
(Public vote kindly hosted by Eventfinda)
TSB Festival of Lights, New Plymouth District Council

Notes to the editor
New Zealand Events Association (NZEA) was formed fifteen years ago and now has over 1,000 members. The Association represents the ever-increasing breadth of the New Zealand events industry. Its purpose is to advocate all aspects of events nationally; their economic outcomes and social benefits, and the people who work and volunteer in and around this unique industry in New Zealand.

Media contacts
Leandri Smith, The Mail Room, 027 365 9003 or
Ségolène de Fontenay, NZ Events Association, 027 484 7722 or

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Media coverage:

SunLive - Bay culinary pop-up cooks up double success - The Bay's News First

NPDC’s Festival Of Lights Crowned NZ’s Favourite Event | Scoop News

NZEA NZ Event Awards winners announced (