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PM: Address at Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister

Address at Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

Wednesday 7 December 2005

It is a great pleasure to present the Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement at tonight’s celebration of New Zealand literature and writers.

We are also here to pay tribute to this year’s Michael King Writer’s Fellow, C.K. Stead.

Karl Stead is a towering figure in contemporary New Zealand literature, as a teacher, scholar, writer, and poet. He has been a bridge to an earlier generation of writers, as a contemporary of Janet Frame, Frank Sargeson, and Allen Curnow. In the 21st century he remains one of our most prolific, successful, and respected literary figures. He is a most worthy recipient of this Fellowship.

These awards were established in 2003 as part of a strategy both to give greater acknowledgment to our leading literary figures, and greater support to authors and literature in New Zealand. There is now a wider array of prizes, fellowships, and residencies for our writers.

There is also a range of initiatives aimed at widening the readership of New Zealand literature at home and abroad.

Creative New Zealand has been working with the sector and with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to develop overseas markets for New Zealand literature. This involves assisting writers to feature in key international events, and holding export workshops for publishers participating in overseas book fairs.

For example, Antipodean writing and publishing was featured at the London Book Fair in March this year. International publishers and agents are being brought out to attend the New Zealand Post Readers and Writers Week in March next year.

In terms of the domestic market, an exciting new initiative is the establishing of New Zealand Book Month by Booksellers New Zealand, which, it is hoped, might emulate for our literature what New Zealand Music Month does for our music.

Since this is a significant literary occasion, I am taking this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Government of France for selecting New Zealand as the country whose literature will be featured in 2006 in the annual French literary festival, "Les Belles Etrangères".

This festival brings writers representative of their country's literature to France to engage with the French public through round tables, discussions, and public readings.

Some of New Zealand’s most esteemed writers will be invited to participate in the festival. I would like particularly to thank the French Ambassador to New Zealand, Jean-Michel Marlaud, (who is represented tonight by Emmanuel Le Brun-Damiens) for his great support and endorsement of New Zealand representation at the festival.

Through Les Belles Etrangères, French readers, writers and literary scholars will be exposed to New Zealand’s literary arts and the diversity of our culture.

The 2006 Prime Minister's Literary Awards celebrate the achievements of three outstanding contributors to New Zealand literature.

The Awards go to three remarkably versatile writers whose works between them cover a broad spectrum of literary genres: poetry, children's literature, adventure, magic and fantasy, adult novels, drama, guides to the great outdoors, biographies, and histories.

Between them, they've also amassed numerous awards, fellowships, residencies, medals, honours, honorary degrees, and royal honours.

I would like to thank everyone involved in these awards: Creative New Zealand for organising and hosting the function this evening; the panel of judges, Elizabeth Alley, Bernadette Hall and Iain Sharp; and the New Zealand literary community.

So, to this year’s Prime Minister’s Awards:

The first Award – the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in POETRY goes to a poet whose work has spoken for close to fifty years of the land in which he lives and of his rich cultural legacies.

His use of words has been described as "musical" in tone. His poetry spans many subjects and moods, but is always finely crafted. It is as technically proficient as it is moving and uplifting.

In mid- to late-20th century New Zealand, this poet and author introduced new ways of expressing Pacific voices in verse.

He is an author who can turn his hand equally to compelling fiction and drama, and whose novel trilogy has come to be regarded as a classic of Pacific literature.

He has served literary arts in New Zealand through writers' organisations, by touring with fellow poets, and tutoring here and overseas. He has been honoured with New Zealand and overseas fellowships, awards and residencies. In 1998 the Pacific Arts Committee of Creative New Zealand awarded him the Pacific Islands Artists' Award for his outstanding contributions.

Now aged eighty years, this poet has just completed another poetry collection.

The Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in POETRY 2005 is awarded to ALISTAIR TE ARIKI CAMPBELL.

Congratulations, Alistair.

The Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in NON-FICTION 2005 goes to an author whose work includes novels and children's books, as well as the wide array of non-fiction for which we are honouring him tonight. As a non-fiction writer, he ranges over topics as diverse as tramping and biography. His work expresses a love of New Zealand's terrain and its flora and fauna, and a keen appreciation of our natural heritage.

He's been an explorer, mountaineer and outdoor educator – and these occupations and interests which are reflected in and enrich his writing.

This writer has been the recipient of several prestigious fellowships including a Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship, a Burns Fellowship, and, most recently, a Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers' Residency.

He has published more than forty books, and he won the Biography category in the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

He's a writer who's been described as one of New Zealand's most versatile.

The Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in NON-FICTION 2005 is awarded to PHILIP TEMPLE.

Congratulations, Philip.

Finally, the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in FICTION for 2005 is going to a writer who has brought magic, humour, and joy into many a young (and older !) life. She, too, has been writing for nearly half a century. She acquired a well-deserved worldwide reputation as an accomplished writer of children's fiction with the overseas publication of her first children's picture book in 1969.

This Award-winner is a prolific writer whose work encompasses fantasy and adventure, junior and adolescent fiction, picture books and poetry. She willingly shares her talents and her stories with children in schools and libraries here, and on overseas speaking tours. Her enthusiasm has done much to encourage a real love of reading and writing and stimulate the imagination.

Honours have been heaped upon this writer too : there have been numerous overseas literary prizes and awards, and, at home in New Zealand, medals, prestigious book awards and fellowships. Recently, she was honoured as a living 'Icon' of New Zealand arts by the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.

This writer has been described as "the most acclaimed of New Zealand's children's writers…" ; and as "… a person of vision. A gem."

The Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in FICTION for 2005 is going to MARGARET MAHY.

Congratulations, Margaret.

ENDS

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