15 Oct 2019

This content is tagged as Literature .


2019 Prime Ministers Awards for Literary Achievement winners announced

An illustrated memoir for children, a novel which inspired a screen adaption starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, and translations of Romanian and Medieval Latin poetry are among the multitude of extraordinary achievements of this year’s winners of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement.

They are multi-talented illustrator and children’s writer, Gavin Bishop (Ngāti Pukeko, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Mahuta, Tainui) who will be honoured for non-fiction; esteemed novelist, essayist and biographist, Elizabeth Knox for fiction; and prolific poet of more than 55 years, librettist and translator Fleur Adcock.

Each will be awarded $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature.

Arts Council Chair Michael Moynahan said, “Congratulations to Gavin, Elizabeth and Fleur. We are thrilled to acknowledge your significant contributions to New Zealand literature over the span of your remarkable careers. Your storytelling has enriched our literary history and has been an inspiration to many.”

The awards will be presented at a ceremony at Premier House in Wellington, on Monday 14 October. The 2019 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship winner, historian, academic and translator, Dr Mere Whaanga, will also be honoured at the ceremony.

Dr Mere Whaanga

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement were established in 2003. Every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate their choice of a New Zealand writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of non-fiction, poetry and fiction. Writers are also able to nominate themselves for these awards.

Nominations are assessed by an external expert panel and recommendations are forwarded to the Arts Council of New Zealand for approval. This year’s selection panel was David Eggleton, Lydia Wevers, John Huria, and Morrin Rout. A full list of previous recipients can be found on the Creative New Zealand website.

Creative New Zealand and Unity Books invite you to a free literary event

The recipients of the 2019 Prime Ministers Awards for Literary Achievement will read and discuss their work with writer, broadcast journalist and historian, Paul Diamond.

This is a free event at Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington on Tuesday 15 October, 12-12.45pm. All welcome. 


For media enquiries, please contact:

Lauretta Ah Sam
Senior Communications Adviser
Creative New Zealand | Toi Aotearoa
Mob: +64 27 292 1589 | DDI: +64 4 498 0725 | Ext: 725
E: lauretta.ahsam@creativenz.govt.nz | W: creativenz.govt.nz

Photo credits: Elizabeth Knox (image credit: Ebony Lamb); Fleur Adcock (image credit: Jemimah Kuhfeld); Dr Mere Whaanga (image credit: Erika Schollum)

Additional notes: author biographies

Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement ­– Fiction
Elizabeth Knox, ONZM (Wellington)

Elizabeth Knox, Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, is the author of 13 novels and three novellas, in genres ranging from autobiographical fiction to fantasy.

In 2000, she was the recipient of the Arts Foundation New Zealand Laureate Award, and in 2002 was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to literature in the New Zealand Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Her book The Vintner’s Luck (first published by Victoria University Press 1998) won the Deutz Medal for Fiction, the Readers’ Choice and Booksellers’ Choice awards in the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and the Tasmania Pacific Region Prize (2001). The Vintner’s Luck has been published in 10 languages.

Her book for young adults, Dreamhunter (HarperCollins, 2005), won the 2006 Esther Glen Medal and was selected as an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults (2007). Dreamhunter’s sequel Dreamquake (HarperCollins, 2007), was a Michael L. Printz Honor book for 2008 and, in the same year, was named best book by the American Library Association, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Booklist, and New York Library.

A collection of essays, The Love School, won the biography and memoir section of the New Zealand Post Book Awards in 2009.

Elizabeth’s young adult title, Mortal Fire, was a finalist in the 2014 LA Times Book Awards, and won the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction.

In 2014 she was the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship.

Her adult novels include Wake (Corsair, 2013), and The Absolute Book, which was published in September this year.

Elizabeth lives in Wellington with her husband, Fergus Barrowman, and son, Jack.

Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement ­– Poetry
Fleur Adcock, CNZM, OBE (London)

Fleur Adcock, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Officer of the Order of the British Empire, is a New Zealand poet, editor and translator based in the United Kingdom.

Her first book of poetry, The Eye of the Hurricane, was published in New Zealand by A.H & A.W Reed in 1964. This was followed by eight collections published by Oxford University Press and then, following her move to Bloodaxe Books: Poems 1960 – 2000 (Bloodaxe, 2000), Dragon Talk (Bloodaxe, 2010), Glass Wings (Bloodaxe and Victoria University Press, 2013), The Land Ballot (Victoria University Press [VUP], 2014 and Bloodaxe, 2015), and Hoard, (Bloodaxe and VUP, 2017).

In February 2019 Collected Poems was published by VUP. She has also published translations from Romanian and medieval Latin poetry, and edited several anthologies, including The Oxford Book of Contemporary New Zealand Poetry (1982), The Faber Book of 20th Century Women's Poetry (1987) and the Oxford Book of Creatures (with Jacqueline Simms, 1995).

Fleur has written libretti and texts for a number of musical works. Her collaborations with the composer Gillian Whitehead include Hotspur (1980), Eleanor of Aquitaine (1982), Out of this Nettle, Danger (1983), Alice (2002), and Iris Dreaming (2016).

She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Academy of New Zealand Literature, and has received various awards for her work. She holds honorary degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and the University of London. 

Fleur is a regular contributor to, as well as editor and translator of poetry anthologies. She was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2006, and in 2008 was named Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.

Fleur was born in New Zealand but has lived in England since 1963, with regular visits to New Zealand. She worked as a librarian in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office until 1979, when she embarked on a life as a freelance writer. She has held literary fellowships in the Lake District and in the universities of Newcastle, Durham, East Anglia and Adelaide. She lives in London, and has dual New Zealand and British citizenship.

Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement – Non-fiction
Gavin Bishop, ONZM

Gavin Bishop (Ngāti Pukeko, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Mahuta, Tainui), Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, is a children’s book author and illustrator, with 70 books to his name. His work ranges from non-fiction to original stories, retellings of Māori myths, European fairy stories, and nursery rhymes.

He recently published the children’s non-fiction book Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, which explores Aotearoa’s history through expansive illustrated pages from the time of the dinosaurs through to today and beyond. Aotearoa has been a continual bestseller on the children’s and adult non-fiction lists since it was released in 2017 and won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, and the Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2018.

In 2009, Gavin’s illustrated memoir for children, Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood Memoir, was a Storylines Notable Non-fiction Book, Best Children’s Book at the Publishers Association of New Zealand Book Design Awards and was shortlisted for a Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) Non-fiction Award.

His book Weaving Earth and Sky won the non-fiction section and the Book of the Year Award of the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards (2003), and was shortlisted for the LIANZA Elsie Locke Medal (2003).

The Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Picture Book Illustration was established in 2009 to encourage emergent illustrators and to acknowledge Gavin’s contribution to the writing and illustrating of children’s picture books.

In 2013 Gavin was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and President of Honour of the NZ Society of Authors. In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Canterbury. As well as his highly regarded non-fiction titles, Gavin has won the LIANZA Russell Clark Medal for Illustration four times and has had 14 works listed as Storylines Notable Books. He has also had fiction titles shortlisted for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards.

In 2000 he won the Margaret Mahy Medal and in 2013, he was the recipient of The Arts Foundation's Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award. Among his successful partnerships has been that with writer Joy Cowley, with whom he won the Best in Junior Fiction and Book of the Year at the 2008 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards for Snake and Lizard.

Gavin’s artwork has featured in exhibitions internationally, including Japan and Slovakia. He has written and designed two ballets for the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company: Terrible Tom and Te Maia and the Sea Devil. In 2018 he was given the Sir Kingi Ihaka Award for services to Māori art and culture at the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Awards.

Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship recipient
Mere Whaanga (Mahia)

Mere Whaanga (Ngāti Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Pahauwera) is a writer, illustrator, historian and academic, born and raised in Wairoa. She completed Te Reo Māori Paetoru at Tairawhiti Polytechnic, a Graduate Diploma in Māori Development from Massey University in 1994, and her MPhil in Māori Studies at Massey University in 2000.

Mere has written several books for children, including: The Legend of the Seven Whales, He Pakiwaitara a Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti (a finalist in 1990 for the NZLA Russell Clark award for illustration), and Tangaroa’s Gift: Te Koha a Tangaroa (1990), a finalist in the 1991 AIM Children’s Book Awards, the 1991 NZLA Russell Clark Award for Illustration and the NZLA Esther Glen Award for Literature.

Other works for children include Te Kooti’s Diamond: Te Taimana a Te Kooti (1991) and Te Tiriti/The Treaty (2003), a 2004 Storylines Notable Non-fiction Book.

Mere’s literary awards include Choysa Bursary for Children’s Writers in 1998, Te Ha Award for Māori Writers in 1991, QEII Literary fund incentive Grant in 1991, and Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi New Work Grant in 2002.

She was the Māori History Fellow at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage from 2001 to 2003, during which time she completed a history of Ngāi Tahu Matawhaiti, A Carved Cloak for Tahu (Auckland University Press 2004). This work was a finalist in the history section of the Montana NZ Book Awards 2005.

In 2011 Mere became the co-ordinating historian for the sites of significance project of Te Tira Whakaemi o Te Wairoa Treaty claims. She also project-managed Te Arawhiti the Truth and Reconciliation hui which was part of the Treaty claims process.

Her next major historical project was the research for Rongomaiwahine iwi’s takutai moana (Marine and Coastal Act) claim, and the writing of the expert witness evidence. During this period she worked on her PhD, titled Rata: the Effect of Māori Land Law on Ahikāroa (Waikato University, 2014).

In 2015 she received the Michael King Writers’ Centre Māori Writer’s Residency to work on a historical novel, Legacy of the Seer. In 2017 she spent six months in Dunedin as the University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence, where she completed the manuscript for a young adult novel titled The Prophecy I: The Tūrehu Seer.

Mere has long been associated with iwi/hapu business and community initiatives. She has a strong interest in Māori and indigenous peoples’ development, land and resource management, contemporary Māori art, and the creation of training and employment opportunities for Māori. She lives in Mahia.