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Judges announced for 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

By August 22, 2018No Comments

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An experienced panel of 12 judges – including prize-winning writers and poets, as well as historians, academics, curators and one of the country’s most respected booksellers – will   select the best books published this year for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

The Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, which will bestow $53,000 on its 2019 winner, will be judged by programme director of WORD Christchurch Rachael King, whose novel The Sound of Butterflies won the Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction in 2007; novelist, short story writer and lecturer James George (Ngāpuhi); and journalist, reviewer and editor Sally Blundell. They will be joined by a well-known international judge, whose identity will be revealed in March 2019, to decide the ultimate winner from their shortlist of four.

Finalists and the ultimate winner in the Poetry category will be selected by three acclaimed poets: creative writing teacher Airini Beautrais; Massey University Associate Professor Bryan Walpert; and Karlo Mila, who runs an indigenous leadership programme and whose collection Dream Fish Floating won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry in 2015.

The Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction will be judged by science writer Rebecca Priestley, Associate Professor at Victoria University of Wellington and recipient of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize; award-winning historian and University of Otago academic Angela Wanhalla; and curator, educator and writer Karl Chitham (Ngāpuhi), director of Tauranga Art Gallery, Toi Tauranga.

Well-known writer, curator and commentator on all aspects of architecture, design and art Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, whose book At Home: A Century of New Zealand Design won the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction in 2005, is joined in judging the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award by writer and curator at Dunedin Public Art Gallery Lucy Hammonds; and experienced bookseller Bruce Caddy, recently retired from a retail career spanning more than 40 years in several of the country’s best bookshops.

Paula Morris, chair of the Ockhams sub-committee of governing body the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, highlights that many of the 2019 judges are writers – and previous award-winners – themselves. “All are part of our vibrant literary culture here in New Zealand, and bring expertise and insights, as well as a passion for reading, to the demands of judging a major prize.”

She also points to the fact that the number of books entered in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards increases every year, requiring more time for reading and deliberation by the judges. “As a result, after consultation within the industry, we have moved the announcement of the 2019 longlist to late January,” says Morris.

The judges will make their longlist of up to 10 books per category known on 31 January 2019 and the 2019 shortlist of 16 books will be announced on 6 March.

The winners will be announced at an awards evening held as the first public event of the Auckland Writers Festival on Tuesday 14 May 2019.

The first round of submissions to the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards closes on 10 September 2018. Titles published between 1 January 2018 and 31 August 2018 must be submitted no later than 5pm, on this date. Entries for titles published between 1 September 2018 and 31 December 2018 open on 11 September and close at 5pm on Wednesday 24 October 2018. Entries can be made via

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, the Acorn Foundation, Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd, the Royal Society Te Apārangi and Auckland Writers Festival, and are administered by the Festival.  


For further information please contact: NZ Book Awards Trust Manager Belinda Cooke, tel 021 481044, email

Editor’s Notes:

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are the country’s premier literary honours for works written by New Zealanders. First established in 1968 as the Wattie Book Awards (later the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards), they have also been known as the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Awards are given for Fiction (the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize), Illustrated Non-Fiction, General Non-Fiction (the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction) and Poetry. There are also four Best First Book Awards and, at the judges’ discretion, a Māori language award. The awards are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust (a registered charity).

Members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Karen Ferns, Paula Morris, Catherine Robertson, Rachel Eadie, David Bowles, Pene Walsh and Melanee Winder. Creative New Zealand is a significant annual funder of the awards. The Trust also governs the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.