And the Award goes to…

It is my great honour to announce the winners of the 2017 New Zealand Heritage Book Awards and Writing Competitions.

On Wednesday evening, we held a cozy event at the gorgeous old Malthouse Theatre in Christchurch. Many of the shortlisted writers, along with others in the writing community and local NZ Society of Authors branch, came together to celebrate New Zealand heritage writers and their work.

Established and celebrated authors, alongside new writers, read from their shortlisted poems, novels, short prose and non-fiction books. Three of our four brilliant judges were able to attend and we heard their reports on the high calibre of the entrants and the difficulty of their decisions.

And then we found out who won!

The 2017 NZ Heritage Non-Fiction Book Award

The finalists were…

  • Tuai: Traveller in Two Worlds, by Alison Jones and Kuini Kaa Jenkins. Bridget Williams Books.
  • New Zealand’s Rivers: An Environmental history, by Catherine Knight. Canterbury University Press.
  • Voices of Belonging: A History of Clevedon – Te Wairoa, by Jessie Munro. Steele Roberts.
  • The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000, by Vincent O’Malley. Bridget Williams Books.
  • Head of the Harbour: A history of Governor’s Bay, Ohinetahi, Allandale and Teddington, by Jane Robertson. Published by Philip King.
  • The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920, by Ben Schrader. Bridget Williams Books.

And the winner is…

The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920
by Ben Schrader
Bridget Williams Books

The judge, Jim McAloon, writes…

The Big Smoke addresses a very important topic, and one which as the author demonstrates is under-represented in the New Zealand historical imagination.  Ben Schrader aims explicitly to write a trans-regional history, and he ranges widely in the use of examples and snapshots.

Written with exceptional grace and clarity, the book covers a range of important themes in urban history, and some of the chapters – especially those about crowds, people, dirt, and the rural and suburban attack on the city – are particularly compelling. This is evidently a book written by a historian expert in the field; it is based on extensive research, is well illustrated, and is above all thought-provoking.

The 2017 NZ Heritage Short Prose Prize

The finalists were…

  • Arrival in Otakou by Melanie Dixon
  • Time is a River and I Am a Net by Jessica Maclean
  • On Tokatoka Hill by Caroline Barron
  • Pioneer Woman by Diana Duckworth
  • Lands of No Return by Coral Atkinson
  • A Gift of Life by Jenny Haworth

And the winner is…

Pioneer Woman by Diana Duckworth

The judge, Sally Blundell, writes…

… within a timeframe that could be as short as one day we find the history, hopes and dreams of the unnamed pioneer woman – her memory of the heaving deck of the immigrant ship, her daily labour, her quiet pleasure in the beauty of the land, the warmth of the sun, the orderliness of her humble home.

Silently, almost imperceptibly, these are stolen from her and from us as we see her husband carrying her body inside, picking up the mantle of domesticity with a hollow acceptance. The brevity and gentle sensuousness of this story encapsulates the poignancy of a life lived and quietly lost as well as the enormity of the whole migratory project that required pioneers to carve out a life beginning with so little.

Duckworth’s writing is lyrical, rhythmic but succinct, drawing a memorable and moving portrait of the unknown pioneer woman.

‘On Tokatoka Hill’ by Caroline Barron was Highly Commended by the Judge.


The 2017 NZ Heritage Poetry Prize

The finalists were…

  • Ancestors by Ross Henderson
  • Reading the Sky by Janet Wainscott
  • But he was Frank by Mark Anthony Houlahan
  • The Passage South by Tim Jones
  • The Place of Starting Over by Tracy Chollet
  • Pilgrim’s Progression by Tony Hampton

And the winner is…

Reading the Sky by Janet Wainscott

The judge, Gail Ingram, writes…

It is a simple lyric poem, beautifully told. Like many of the other poems, it works by contrasting past and present – in this case, a pre-quake experience of star-gazing to the post-quake memory of loss. By the end of the poem, we discover something astonishing as we try to reconcile the two experiences.

Throughout the poem … The poet, like the telescope in the observatory, narrows and then opens our view and ‘plays tricks’ with our perception. In the last stanza, we find the observatory and telescope have been broken in the earthquakes, yet the final image leaves us, not only with the potent loss of that, but also with a powerful opening for change and hope.

…It’s a poem filled with beautiful images and one that points to the importance and power of personal transformation as we keep searching to Find Our Way.

The 2017 NZ Heritage Novel Award

The finalists were…

  • Decline & Fall on Savage Street, by Fiona Farrell
  • Good Sons: A Novel of the Great War, by Greg Hall
    Mary Egan Publishing.
  • Daylight Second, by Kelly Ana Morey
    Harper Collins.
  • Leap of Faith, by Jenny Pattrick
  • Through the Lonesome Dark, by Paddy Richardson
    Upstart Press.
  • Lewisville, by Alexandra Tidswell
    Submarine/Makaro Press.

And the winner is…

Decline and Fall on Savage Street
by Fiona Farrell

Of this book, the judge, Dame Fiona Kidman, writes…

This is a brave, brilliant book, the third that Fiona Farrell has produced dealing with the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath in the seven years that have unfolded since they occurred.

The story follows the lives of people who inhabit a house that stands between 1906 and 2012. The end is desolation, but much has gone on in the house that reflects the unfolding history of a city, and in the story of a people it is lucid, beautiful and compassionate.

I acknowledge that each book in a competition should be judged on its own merits. Nevertheless, it is difficult to dissociate Decline & Fall on Savage Street from The Broken Book and The Villa at the Edge of the Empire and not salute Farrell’s collective statement about what has happened to Christchurch; it is history as it happens and, in chronicling the events in human terms, one of New Zealand’s great writers has created what I believe will be an enduring record that will be referred to by generations to come. But, also, as a stand alone novel, Decline & Fall succeeds on it own merits.

Our warmest congratulations to the winners, the finalists and indeed to all entrants. We could not continue to run these awards without you!

We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank BECA Christchurch Heritage Week and the Christchurch City Council for their contribution to the competition and the prizegiving event.


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