Story: Awards and prizes

Page 2. Literary awards, 1950s onwards

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Katherine Mansfield Memorial Award

A privately sponsored short-story award, the biennial Katherine Mansfield Memorial Award, became available from 1959. This was funded by the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ). Sir Harold Beauchamp, the father of the short-story writer Katherine Mansfield, chaired the bank’s board of directors for many years. In the 2010s the BNZ sponsored awards for short stories by unpublished and secondary-school-age writers, as well as established writers.

Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards

In 1968 a second privately sponsored award, the Sir James Wattie Award, was formed with the support of the New Zealand Publishers’ Association. This recognised the overall quality, not just the literary merit, of a new fiction or non-fiction publication. The first winners were John Morton and Michael Miller for The New Zealand sea shore. This award later expanded and became the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards, and subsequently the Montana Book Awards.

Children’s Book Awards

From 1982 the State Literary Fund presented an annual award for best first children’s book. In 1988 the fund’s activities were transferred to the literature programme of government arts funding body the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (later Creative New Zealand). From 1991 the annual Children’s Book Awards (awarded at a separate ceremony from the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards) were sponsored by Aim, a brand of toothpaste. New Zealand Post was the sponsor from 1997 to 2014. In 2015, a number of organisations and publishing companies contributed funds so an award could be made. In 2016 the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults merged with the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards. It continued to be supported by a number of different sponsors.

Prime Minister’s Awards

Since 2003 the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement have been awarded annually to writers who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of non-fiction, poetry and fiction (including plays and scriptwriting). Each winner receives $60,000. Nominees for these awards are proposed by the New Zealand public, and an expert panel recommends the winners for approval by Creative New Zealand. By 2023, Prime Minister’s Awards had been won by 37 men and 26 women.

New Zealand Book Awards

From 1976 the State Literary Fund presented annual New Zealand Book Awards which celebrated literary merit in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and, later, book production. In 1996 these awards (now managed by Creative New Zealand) were merged with the Montana Book Awards to form the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, administered by the bookselling association Booksellers New Zealand.

In 2010 sponsorship of these awards was assumed by New Zealand Post. In 2014, their final year, the New Zealand Post Book Awards covered the categories of poetry, fiction, illustrated and general non-fiction, a book of the year, three best first book awards, a Māori language award and the People’s Choice award (chosen by public vote).

From 2016 the awards were sponsored by property developer Ockham as the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Writers’ fellowships

Although most literary awards take the form of cash grants, others are residencies, which give writers the opportunity to stay at a particular location with their accommodation costs, and sometimes extra funding, provided. The first of these was the Robert Burns Fellowship, set up with anonymous funding at Otago University in 1958. Other universities later followed suit.

Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship

New Zealand’s most prestigious literary residency in the 2010s was the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship, founded in 1970 and funded by a trust. The award provided the winner with a year’s income and a residency of at least three months in Menton, France, where Katherine Mansfield lived and wrote at the Villa Isola Bella late in her life.

How to cite this page:

Mark Derby, 'Awards and prizes - Literary awards, 1950s onwards', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 June 2024)

Story by Mark Derby, published 22 Oct 2014, updated 1 Apr 2020