Announcing the 2023 Ockham NZ Book Awards Judges


Distinguished academics, historians and curators, together with acclaimed writers and journalists, are among the 12 experts selected to judge the 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.


The $62,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction will be judged by bestselling author, critic and creative writing teacher Stephanie Johnson (convenor); editor and literature assessor John Huria (Ngāi Tahu, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Rangi); and Rotorua bookseller Jemma Morrison. They will be joined in deciding the ultimate winner from their shortlist of four by an international judge.

Judging the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry will be Dunedin poet, author and creative writing tutor Diane Brown (convenor); poet and kaiako Serie Barford; and Wellington poet and Grimshaw-Sargeson Fellow Gregory Kan.

The General Non-Fiction Award will be judged by writer and award-winning columnist Anna Rawhiti-Connell (convenor); prize-winning author, academic and researcher Alison Jones; and historian Professor Te Maire Tau (Ūpoko of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, a hapu of Ngāi Tahu).

The Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction will be judged by award-winning writer, historian and archivist Jared Davidson (convenor); writer and curator Dr Anna-Marie White (Te Ātiawa); and veteran television producer Taualeo’o Stephen Stehlin MNZM.

New Zealand Book Awards Trust Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa chair Nicola Legat says judging Aotearoa’s best books demands debate and full consideration by informed and avid readers with diversities of experience.

“This year’s stellar group of judges, each with their own expertise and point of view, seeks to honour this wero.”

The New Zealand Book Awards Trust is now inviting entries for the 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Online entries for titles published between 1 September 2022 and 31 December 2022 opened on Wednesday 14 September and close 5pm on Wednesday 26 October 2022. Submissions for titles published between 1 January and 31 August 2022 have closed.

Click here for eligibility criteria and a Call for Entries information pack, then enter online here.

The judges will advise their longlists in each category on 2 February 2023 and the shortlist of 16 books will be announced on 8 March. The finalists and winners will be celebrated mid-May 2023 at an awards event held at the Auckland Writers Festival.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, the late Jann Medlicott and the Acorn Foundation, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, the Crystal Arts Trust, Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand and the Auckland Writers Festival.

For submission enquiries, please email Awards Administrator Chris Chan at

For judges’ images:

For further information:



The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are the country’s premier literary honours for books written by New Zealanders. First established in 1968 as the Wattie Book Awards (later the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards), they have also been known as the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Awards are given for Fiction (the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction), Poetry (the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry) Illustrated Non-Fiction (the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction) and General Non-Fiction. There are also four awards for first-time authors (The Crystal Arts Trust Best First Book awards) and, at the judges’ discretion, Te Mūrau o te Tuhi, a Māori Language Award. The awards are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust Te Ohu Tiaki i Te Rau Hiringa (a registered charity). Current members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Garth Biggs, Rachael King, Jenna Todd, Anne Morgan, Melanee Winder, Melinda Szymanik and Richard Pamatatau. The Trust also governs the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.



Stephanie Johnson MNZM is the author of over 20 books. Her most recent are the novel Everything Changes and the biography/social history West Island: Five Twentieth Century New Zealanders in Australia. A respected critic, Auckland Writers Festival founder and creative writing teacher, Stephanie lives in Auckland.

John Huria (Ngāi Tahu, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Rangi) is an experienced editor. A former Te Waka Toi member and current Creative New Zealand literature and Māori arts assessor, John is kaiētita matua for the New Zealand Council of Educational Research and a PhD candidate at the Waikato University school of management, researching Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Jemma Morrison manages McLeods Booksellers in Rotorua and has worked in the bookselling industry for 15 years; her first bookshop job was at Unity Books in Auckland. She has a passion for literature, independent bookshops and storytelling in all its forms. Jemma graduated from the University of Auckland with a BA in English and Linguistics.


Diane Brown runs Creative Writing Dunedin. Her eight books range over poetry, novels and memoirs. Diane’s poetic family memoir, Taking my Mother to the Opera, was published in 2015, and her most recent book is a long poetic narrative, Every Now and Then I Have Another Child.

Kaiako Serie Barford held a 2018 Pasifika Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre and performed at the 2019 international Book Arsenal Festival in Kyiv. Her poetry collection, Sleeping with Stones, was shortlisted for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Poet Gregory Kan is based in Wellington. His first book of poetry, This Paper Boat, was shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2017. He was a Grimshaw-Sargeson Fellow in the same year, and his second book, Under Glass, was published in 2019.


Anna Rawhiti-Connell is a writer and is currently the editor of The Bulletin and newsletters editor at The Spinoff. She won Best General Columnist at the 2021 Voyager Media Awards, and contributes to North & South. Anna is a trustee on the board of the Auckland Writers Festival.

Alison Jones is a professor, researcher and writer in the field of Māori-Pākehā relations. Her book with Kuni Jenkins, Tuai: A Traveller in Two Worlds, won the Illustrated Non-Fiction category at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and her memoir, This Pākehā Life, was shortlisted for the General Non-Fiction category in 2021.

Professor Te Maire Tau (Ūpoko of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, a hapu of Ngāi Tahu) is a historian on oral traditions, tribal genealogies, and indigenous knowledge systems. He served as an expert witness for the settlement of Ngāi Tahu’s Treaty of Waitangi claim and his research interests include the philosophy of knowledge, oral traditions, myth, indigenous development and history.


Jared Davidson is an award-winning writer, historian and archivist. His book Dead Letters: Censorship and Subversion in New Zealand 1914-1920 won the Bert Roth Award in 2020. A former designer and printmaker, Jared is the Research Librarian Manuscripts at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Taualeo’o Stephen Stehlin MNZM has extensive experience in the New Zealand television industry. He is the Executive Producer of Tagata Pasifika, a programme he has worked on since its inception in 1987. Stephen was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Pacific Island television broadcasting and the arts in 2008, and is Chairperson of Pacific Dance New Zealand and a board member of the Silo Theatre.

Dr Anna-Marie White (Te Ātiawa) is a researcher, writer and curator who specialises in contemporary Māori art. She is Tātai Taura | Principal Advisor for Toi Māori, a charitable trust that supports and promotes the development of Māori art.

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