First Steps


Pat Lawlor – President, PEN NZ 1948-1949

The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc.) was established in 1934 as the New Zealand PEN Centre and remains to this day the principal organisation for New Zealand authors. The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc.) is an arts organisation that supports all writers and writing in Aotearoa, and currently has over 1,800 members nationally through its eight branches and many hubs. All writers are welcome and have access to NZSA’s educational and professional development programmes, and benefit from its advocacy for writers across the sector, whether members or not.

NZ PEN’s first important step was in 1944 when it made representations to the government for the setting up of a State Literary Fund to help writers undertake “belles letters, poetry or prose”. PEN’s persistent campaign saw the government agree to the establishment of a fund in 1946. PEN had three representatives on the State Literary Fund Advisory Committee, which supported many writers whose work might not otherwise have survived. It often helped in the publication of manuscripts and eventually began supporting literary fellowships at New Zealand’s universities.

Public Lending Right Campaign

During the next 30 years, the organisation campaigned for a Public Lending Right to compensate authors for the loss of royalties on free library use of their books that give free and full public access. In 1973, the Authors’ Fund was introduced and over 1,400 authors benefited from PEN’s initiative. In 1975, PEN initiated the New Zealand Writers’ Guild to represent writers in their dealings with broadcasting and professional theatres. PEN retained its influence as an adviser to the government on literary matters after the administration of the grants and the Authors’ Fund was moved from the Internal Affairs Department to the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council in 1988, and underwent further developments in 2008 when it was changed to the Public Lending Rights. Public Lending Right is now administered by the National Library of New Zealand under the Department of Internal Affairs.

NZSA continues to campaign for the establishment of Educational Lending Rights (for free public access in school libraries) and Digital Lending Rights that provides free public access to ebooks and audiobooks.

Literary Awards

The organisation was instrumental in establishing the first literary awards in New Zealand – The Hubert Church Award for fiction in 1940, The Jessie McKay Award for poetry in 1945, and the Eric McCormick Award for non-fiction. These awards are now administered by The New Zealand Book Awards Trust and incorporated into the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

The Society administers the Lillian Ida Smith Award, The Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship, the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize, The Michael Gifkins Prize for an Unpublished Novel, the NZSA/CLNZ Writers Award, the NZSA/CLNZ Research Grant, and other legacy awards made by bequests and trusts for ongoing opportunities for all writers. These awards are open to all Aotearoa New Zealand writers.

Professional Support for Writers

In 1994, PEN changed the organisation to The New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc). The new organisation retained the advocacy and culture of PEN but broadened its mahi to support all writers and Aotearoa New Zealand writing.  The new Society assumed equal shareholding alongside the Publishers Association of NZ of Copyright Licensing NZ Limited:  a collective management not-for-profit organisation that collects and distributes money to copyright holders for the reprographic use of their copyright material, especially by educational institutions.

The Society works alongside industry partners such as The Coalition for Books, The Book Awards Trust, Read NZ and We Create, government, and Creative New Zealand, to ensure that the professional interests of writers are represented and we continue to strive to make New Zealand writing more visible. NZSA’s newsletters and quarterly journal are a hub for book sector news in Aotearoa.


The NZ Society of Authors now runs educational and professional development courses, workshops and programmes for writers. Since 2012 NZSA’s Mentorship and Assessment programmes (supported by Creative New Zealand) have identified and nurtured emerging new talent, and our professional training and courses: NZSA Regional Roadshows, Web-workshop masterclasses and Writers Toolkits are available to all writers, whether members or not.