Literary awards in New Zealand have until recent years been sporadic and unimportant. Before the National Centennial celebrations in 1940, no prizes of significance were offered to writers, except within the membership of academic or other restricted groups, or for the special purposes of the press. Personal awards are of three types: one is the prize offered in open competition for unpublished work, a kind of “talent quest”; another bestows a laureate blessing upon a published work. The third type of award in New Zealand is the scholarship, intended to support a writer of established promise during a further period of creative activity. Support for writing also takes the form of State grants, not to persons, but to publishers, to assist publications of value, whether periodicals or books; in a country with a necessarily limited reading public this is a valuable type of recognition for a literary work. The note “published with the aid of the New Zealand Literary Fund” has become a token of some merit.
Awards fall into five categories. Literary societies or other similar bodies have offered prizes, occasional or regular, often in the name of notable members of the past. Civic authorities, banks, and Government or other institutions have promoted competitions to commemorate anniversaries or accompany community festivities. Prizes have been offered by newspapers, by the National Broadcasting Service, and by various periodicals, either as an element in general policy, or to mark some birthday or other occasion. Academic prizes and scholarships are offered by the universities. Finally, there are the many activities of the Fund, including annual scholarships and awards, subsidies to publishers, and grants-in-aid to writers.