The British Columbia community known as "The gateway to the Sunshine Coast" now has another distinction to add to its list: being the world's most liveable.

The United Nations-endorsed International Awards for Liveable Communities (LivCom) handed Gibsons, B.C., the Gold Award in the "Whole City" category for best community with a population of less than 20,000 in a ceremony Monday.

The award is designed to encourage leadership in providing a vibrant, sustainable community that improves quality of life.

Nominees were judged by criteria including landscape, heritage management, environmentally sensitive practices and healthy lifestyles.

Mayor Barry Janyk, who travelled to the Czech Republic for the 13th annual awards October 8 to 12, says the town is "honoured."

"This award is a testament to our forward-thinking and sustainable planning when it comes to preparing for our town's future growth, and it is extremely exciting to be placed amongst the ranks of some of the world's greenest communities," he said in a statement.

Other winners in the Whole City award included:

  • Newark, England (population up to 75,000)
  • Melville, Australia (population up to 200,000)
  • Shilong, China (population up to 750,000)
  • Dalian, China (population over 750,000).

Gibsons was also recognized with an award for "Planning for the Future" for its planned Geo-Exchange District Energy System. The plan, the first of its kind in North America, will capture renewable energy from heat exchangers on municipally owned green space.

With a population of just under 4,000, the oceanside town of Gibsons is accessible from Vancouver by a 40 minute ferry trip from Horseshoe Bay through Howe Sound.

Forestry and fishing were once backbones of the town's economy, but tourism and retirement are now the dominant industries.

From 1971 to 1990, the village was used as the backdrop for the popular CBC television drama The Beachcombers.