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Wellington novelist and playwright Whiti Hereaka (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Tūhourangi, Pākehā) has won the $60,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for her book Kurangaituku – a richly imagined contemporary retelling of the traditional Te Arawa story Hatupatu and the Bird-Woman, told from the perspective of the ‘monster’ Kurangaituku.

Ms Hereaka received the prize ahead of novelist, lawyer and academic Gigi Fenster (A Good Winter); debut novelist and winner of the 2019 Adam Foundation Prize Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin); and novelist, poet, literary critic and academic Bryan Walpert (Entanglement). The ceremony was held live and in person, emcee’d by Jack Tame at Q Theatre, Auckland this evening.

The Fiction category’s convenor of judges, Rob Kidd, says Kurangaituku (Huia Publishers) is an extraordinary novel, unashamedly literary and utterly innovative.

“It’s an epic poem of a novel, resonant of Māori oral traditions, that gives a voice, form and a name to the bird-woman from the Māori myth. The ogress Kurangaituku tells us not only her side of the story but everything she knows about Te Ao Māori.

Kurangaituku is poetic, intense, clever and sexy as hell. It’s also an important novel. A game changer.”

Canterbury poet, editor and writing tutor Joanna Preston has won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry for Tumble (Otago University Press). Preston’s second collection encompasses myth and magic, including Vikings, astronauts and fallen angels.

 Poetry category convenor Saradha Koirala says Tumble is a celebration of poetry that incorporates free verse and traditional forms.

“Through her layering of art, re-imagining of historic moments and firm nods to poets past, Joanna Preston reminds us of Louise Gluck with her precise, evocative narratives, chiselled out of stone to reveal what was always there.

“Simply written, yet dramatic and powerfully eloquent, each poem in this book is a banger.”

Author and senior curator New Zealand Culture and History at Te Papa Claire Regnault won the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction for the stunningly presented Dressed: Fashionable Dress in Aotearoa New Zealand 1840 to 1910 (Te Papa Press).

Category convenor Chanel Clarke (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Porou, Waikato Tainui)

says even those who believe themselves to be without interest in either clothing or our history will be seduced by Dressed.

“Readers will find themselves transported to other worlds, populated by people, indigenous and immigrant, both heartachingly familiar and surprisingly exotic. Beautifully illustrated and deeply researched, Dressed is the complete package. A valuable addition to our nation’s story and a great example of what historical enquiry and non-fiction publishing can be.”

One of this country’s most respected historians, Wellington resident Vincent O’Malley, won the General Non-Fiction Award for his work, Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa (Bridget Williams Books).

Category convenor Nicholas Reid says Vincent O’Malley’s book meets all the criteria for a great work of non-fiction.

Voices from the New Zealand Wars | He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa is the fruit of close historical research and is accessible to a wide readership. It tells us of the past but is relevant to the present, when public debate feeds New Zealanders’ hunger to know how our country was formed. It is nuanced in its balance of both Māori and Pakeha voices and it respects the attitudes and assumptions of people who lived in an era different from our own.

“In bringing together these voices, O’Malley creates a coherent history of the New Zealand Wars, gives greater attention to wahine than earlier historians have, and deals carefully with contested events. The excellent book production is a credit to the publishers.”

The Poetry, Illustrated Non-Fiction and General Non-Fiction category Award winners each took home a $10,000 prize.

Four Crystal Arts Trust Best First Book Awards were also presented at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.  

The Hubert Church Prize for a best first book of Fiction: Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Wai) (Te Herenga Waka University Press).

The Jessie Mackay Prize for a best first book of Poetry: Whai by Nicole Titihuia Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera) (We are Babies Press).

The Judith Binney Prize for a best first work of Illustrated Non-Fiction: The Architect and the Artists: Hackshaw, McCahon, Dibble by Bridget Hackshaw (Massey University Press).

The E.H. McCormick Prize for a best first work of General Non-Fiction: The Alarmist: Fifty Years Measuring Climate Change by Dave Lowe (Te Herenga Waka University Press).

Each Crystal Arts Trust Best First Book Award winner received $2,500 and a 12-month membership subscription to the New Zealand Society of Authors.

“As the longlists demonstrated, this was a year of original, excellent, ground-breaking books,” says Paula Morris, a trustee of the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, which governs the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

“These eight writers – with books by seven different publishers – suggest our deep pool of talent, accomplishment, knowledge and imagination.” 

At the commencement of the ceremony, New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat announced the Trust’s new te reo Māori name – Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa – gifted by distinguished Māori language scholar Tā Tīmoti Kāretu and respected language consultant Pania Papa.

In devising the name, Pania Papa says, “Sir Tīmoti Kāretu offered the term ‘hiringa’, which carries the meaning of ‘energy, inspiration and excellence’.  We decided to combine the term with the word ‘rau’–carrying the meanings, ‘leaf’, ‘page’, and ‘numerous’ – to infuse the awards with all of those concepts that are related to the inspiration and creativity we gain from literature and the energy of authors.”

The first part of the name, Te Ohu Tiaki, means a company of workers who take care of something. A loose translation of the second part is ‘hundreds of leaves of inspiration.’

Nicola Legat says, “The Trust is honoured and thrilled to be gifted this new te reo Māori name, which will be treasured.  We think everyone would agree that it is just perfect.”

The 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards judges were:

Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction:  Otago Daily Times journalist and books editor Rob Kidd; Booksellers Aotearoa’s programme coordinator and avid reader Gemma Browne; award-winning writer and freelance oral historian/researcher Kelly Ana Morey (Ngāti Kurī, Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri); and John Freeman – a US author, literary critic and executive editor at Knopf.

Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry: Author, poet, reviewer and teacher Saradha Koirala; internationally published and award-winning poet, playwright, short story writer and novelist Apirana Taylor (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau ā Apanui, Ngāti Ruanui and Te Āti Awa); and writer, editor and bookseller Jane Arthur.  

Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction: museum curator Chanel Clarke (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Porou, Waikato Tainui); photographer, author and urbanist Patrick Reynolds; and former publisher and co-founder of Godwit Press Jane Connor.

General Non-Fiction Award: Poet and non-fiction author, book reviewer and blogger Nicholas Reid, award-winning journalist and photographer Aaron Smale (Ngāti Porou); and poet, historian, former diplomat and Fulbright alumna Leilani Tamu.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, Jann Medlicott and the Acorn Foundation, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, the Crystal Arts Trust, Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand and the Auckland Writers Festival.

To find out more about the winners’ books go to