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PM's Speech To Montana NZ Book Awards

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister Address at Montana New Zealand Book Awards, Wellington Town Hall Wellington, 9.40 pm, Monday 21 July 2008

Many thanks for the invitation once again to speak at this ceremony, and to present the top awards.

Tonight we celebrate our writers – across genre – for the contribution they make to our literature and to our understanding of our nation and our world.

I speak tonight against the background of two significant moves made to support our writers which I announced in May.

Following a meeting with the New Zealand Society of Authors in February, I tasked the Ministry of Culture and Heritage with advising me on a fresh approach to the administration of the New Zealand Author’s Fund.

The outcome is the new legislation being debated in Parliament : the Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors Bill.

This is dedicated legislation, putting the scheme on a firm statutory footing, and providing for input from writers on the policy and administration of the scheme. It is clear that under the status quo arrangements, writers have not felt adequately consulted.

The administration of the scheme will shift from Creative New Zealand to a government department – most likely the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

That means that funding for the lending right will not be contestable within Creative New Zealand’s budget, but rather will be determined directly by government as part of our annual budget decisions.

As a mark of goodwill, the baseline funding allocated to the scheme has been increased by one third, taking it up to $2 million per annum.

The Bill will be referred to a select committee, where we will be pleased to hear from the Society of Authors, individual writers, and other stakeholders.

And now to tonight’s awards.

These awards create enormous interest every year – and often a little controversy around the choice of finalists. I see that this year is no exception.

I am especially pleased to see that this year for the first time there is an award for writing in Te Reo Maori. As education in the medium of Te Reo is now so important, the growth of a greater body of literature in it is imperative. This new award will certainly boost interest in Maori literature.

I congratulate all tonight’s finalists and winners.

I thank all those who support the awards – Booksellers New Zealand, Montana as the long time name sponsor, and Creative New Zealand.

To our publishers : thank you for your commitment to publishing original New Zealand writing.

To the judges : thank you for the incredible job you do reading all the work entered for the awards, and making your judgements – which are of course final.

And now to the Montana Medals for Non Fiction and for Fiction or Poetry.


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