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PM Literary Awards honour leading writers

Date: 7 December 2005

Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement honour leading writers

Three leading New Zealand writers – Margaret Mahy, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Philip Temple – were honoured tonight at the 2005 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement, held in association with Creative New Zealand and announced at Premier House in Wellington.

Worth $60,000 each, the annual Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement recognise writers who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature. Prime Minister Helen Clark presented the awards to children’s writer Margaret Mahy of Banks Peninsula, Christchurch for fiction; Alistair Te Ariki Campbell of Pukerua Bay, Porirua for poetry; and Philip Temple of Dunedin for non-fiction.

“Over many years, these writers have made outstanding contributions to New Zealand’s literary landscape and we, as New Zealanders, have been the beneficiaries,” Helen Clark said.

“Margaret Mahy is an extraordinary storyteller whose tales have fed the imaginations of children throughout the world since the publication of her picture book, A Lion in the Meadow, in 1969.

“One of the first Polynesian voices to be published in New Zealand literature, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell has a long and distinguished career dating back to his first poetry collection, Mine Eyes Dazzle, in 1950.

“Philip Temple has made a major contribution to New Zealand’s non-fiction. His love of the outdoors is reflected in his books on mountaineering and exploration, while his biography on the Wakefield family has won considerable acclaim.

“These three writers uphold the status of these awards and their contributions to New Zealand society are remarkable.”

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement, along with the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writers’ Fellowship, were established in 2003 as part of the Government’s additional $1 million (inc. GST) per year to the literary sector, announced in May 2002.

Earlier this year, New Zealanders were invited to nominate their choice of an outstanding New Zealand writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. The nominations were assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations were forwarded to the Council of Creative New Zealand for approval.

Chair of Creative New Zealand Peter Biggs commended the Government for its ongoing support of New Zealand literature. He also thanked the writers for the “enormous pleasure” their work had given to readers over very many years.

“The wonderful thing about New Zealand’s outstanding senior writers – and tonight’s recipients are a fine example – is that they never retire,” Mr Biggs says. “They continue to weave their magic, entrancing us with their words and shining a light on what it means to be of this country.”

Auckland writer C.K. Stead, who was awarded the 2005 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writers’ Fellowship earlier this year, attended the awards ceremony where his achievement was also acknowledged.

Margaret Mahy, Banks Peninsula, Christchurch:
In a career spanning half-a-century, Margaret Mahy’s output has been prodigious: she has written more than 100 picture books, more than 200 stories for the educational market, many novels for children and for young adults, anthologies of stories and poetry, and plays for stage and television, both for adults and children. Her work has been adapted for film and television, and translated into more than 15 languages. This year alone she has published three books - Zerelda’s Horses, Maddigan’s Fantasia and Kaitangata Twitch – and written a television drama series of Maddigan’s Fantasia, to screen on Television New Zealand next year.

Her work has attracted many high honours both at home and abroad, including Britain’s prestigious Carnegie Medal (in 1982 and in 1984). In 1993, Mahy’s contribution to literature was rewarded with New Zealand’s highest civilian honour, the Order of New Zealand. In 2005, the Arts Foundation of New Zealand recognised her contribution by installing her as a Living Icon.

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Pukerua Bay, Porirua:
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell has been honoured both at home and abroad, holding several fellowships and residencies. He also received an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Victoria University in 1999.
Campbell’s journey from the Cook Islands to New Zealand in 1933 at the age of eight took him first to a Dunedin orphanage and later, as a young man, to Victoria University in Wellington. His first book of poetry, Mine Eyes Dazzle, was published in 1950 and contained two of his greatest early poems, The Return and Elegy. Since then, Campbell has published many volumes of poetry. His verse has ranged the gamut of his experience, and he has mined both European and Polynesian traditions for its inspiration. In October this year, Campbell’s The Dark Lord of Savaiki: Collected Poems was published. Now aged 80, he has just completed another poetry collection.

Philip Temple, Dunedin:
Philip Temple is one of New Zealand’s most versatile writers whose non-fiction work ranges from tramping guides to history and award-winning biography. Temple’s A Sort of Conscience: The Wakefields (2002) was named Biography of the Year in the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and won both the 2003 Ernest Scott History Prize and 2003 Ian Wards Prize for Historical Writing.

Over the past 40 years, Temple has published more than 40 books. He has held several fellowships and was awarded the 2003 Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers’ Residency. In 2004, he was made an Officer of the Order of New Zealand Merit. He has written two books about New Zealand mountaineers: The World at Their Feet, which won a Wattie Book Award in 1970, and Castles in the Air (1973). In 2002, he published The Last True Explorer, which recounted an expedition he undertook in the 1960s to West Papaua with renowned Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Härrer.


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