Waikato district town Raglan completing against Waihi Beach for Keep NZ Beautiful Award.
Competing coastal towns flaunted their best stuff for judges this week as the battle of the "most beautiful" ramps up.
Waikato spots Waihī and Raglan are the national finalists for Most Beautiful Small Town for this year's Keep New Zealand Beautiful awards.
The awards celebrate effort taken by communities to enhance a place's environment.
And the competition between east and west coast is fierce, with judges calling it "neck and neck".
"It's a little friendly competition," Keep New Zealand Beautiful chief executive Heather Saunderson said.
Winners will be announced at a gala dinner on October 26.
It was blustery and soggy in both towns when judges - Saunderson and NZ House and Garden editor Sally Duggan - visited mid-week.
The duo were rugged-up in winter woolies against icy spring showers while touring Raglan on Wednesday.
But wind and rain did little to mar the magic of the two beachside towns, the judges said.
It's not just about prettiness, anyway.
The judges have a strict criteria to follow, with four sections - litter prevention and waste minimisation, community beautification, recycling projects, and sustainable tourism - each worth 25 per cent.
Waihī has focused on clearing litter, planting and educating children about sustainability, alongside dozens of community-driven initiatives.
For example, a primary school girl has set up a produce swapping stall at her school gate, so no-one's produce goes to waste.
And a seasonal cafe called Falls Retreat had a vegetable patch in the garden which was used for meals. If tomato is out of season, other flavours are used on pizzas.
Meanwhile, Raglan has embraced minimising waste, so much so that it has become a brand in itself. It's become a selling point for local businesses, Saunderson said.
Raglan locals have become future thinkers, she said, focusing on wider issues at hand.
Waste saving heroes such as Rick Thorpe, who has been part of Raglan's Xtreme Zero Waste initiative since its inception, were a huge part of the culture, Saunderson said.
"He's looking for world domination. In a good way," she said, laughing.
Businesses such as Dreamview Creamery had taken to delivering milk in glass bottles to avoid using plastic.
And a harbourside seat, built for a local teenager who died in 2016, showed the compassion of small towns.
Duggan said she was "dead impressed" by both towns, paving the way for the future.
"If I had to put it in a nutshell, that's what has most surprised me," Duggan said.
"It's the power of the small community."
Article by Stuff