The NZSA New Zealand Heritage Literary Awards 2021 – Winners Announced

The NZSA New Zealand Heritage Literary Awards 2021 – Christchurch Heritage Festival 2021 – People and Place – our stories revealed

This year’s winners and runner-up of the NZSA New Zealand Literary Heritage Awards have been selected from over 160 entries submitted in all six categories.  The winners and runners-up were announced at a ceremony in Christchurch’s St Michael and Angels church this evening, 22 October 2021.

To listen to the awards LIVE as they happened, here is a link from Plains FM
Listen to it as a podcast,  go to the PlainsFM Features page link:
Nonfiction Books Section – Judged by Katie Pickles and Sally Blundell


ROCK COLLEGE: An unofficial history of Mount Eden Prison by Mark Derby (Massey University Press)

Judges Katie Pickles and Sally Blundell commented: ‘Rock College is an engaging, compassionate and thoroughly-researched exploration of the dark heritage of the forbidding, sprawling Mt Eden Prison in Auckland. In exploring this history, Mark Derby shines a new light on our colonial and more recent past: our wars and protests; our attitudes to women, children, and people of different ethnicities; our criminals, our layabouts, our victim. Those who know Auckland well, will appreciate this glimpse beyond the walls of one of the city’s landmark buildings.’


KIA WHAKANUIA TE WHENUA: People, Place, Landscape Edited by Carolyn Hill for Landscape Foundation (Mary Egan Publishing)

Judges Katie Pickles and Sally Blundell commented: ‘This fresh and timely Māori-led collection is bursting with knowledge that focuses on ideas concerning whenua, tinana and wairua to intervene in ways of thinking about people and landscape.  The result is a beautifully produced and powerful intervention into current debates concerning the fields of traditional science and western science that extends how heritage itself is defined.’

Fiction Books Section – Judged by Paula Morris


EVERYTHING CHANGES by Stephanie Johnson (Vintage)

Judge Paula Morris commented: ‘This novel is searing social commentary—by turns witty, tragic and poignant. It’s particularly strong on the lives of young women, their rage and vulnerability, the weight of expectations they bear, and their complex relationships with their mothers. The places evoked in the book, both rural and urban, are vivid and particular. Everything Changes asks us to consider if places change us, or if we can really change at all. A great, rich read.’

Stephanie Johnson is a well-known and award-winning Auckland writer. She was one of the founder organisers of the Auckland Writers’ Festival which is now one of our premier literary events.


THE TALLY STICK by Carl Nixon (Vintage)

Judge Paula Morris commented: ‘Tense as a thriller, engrossing as a mystery, this novel examines lives in deep isolation on the West Coast of the South Island. How can the children who survive a car crash in the late 70s disentangle themselves from deep, unfamiliar bush—and their rescuers?’ 

Carl is a leading Christchurch writer.

Children’s Books Section – Judged by Gavin Bishop


I AM THE UNIVERSE by Vasanti Unka, (Puffin Books, Penguin Random House)

Judge Gavin Bishop commented: ‘Vasanti Unka is in total control in this deceptively simple book. In this picture book she simply does not put a foot wrong. The cliche that tells us “A picture is worth a thousand words,” has never been truer than it is here. The language is simply and brief. It has not been dumbed down. The pictures are glorious, bursting from the page to fill the reader’s mind with thousands of words, ideas, and experiences.’


NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS by Maria Gill and Marco Ivancic (Scholastic NZ)

Judge Gavin Bishop commented: Maria Gill has a long and successful publishing career in non-fiction. Her books are known for their careful research and interesting, and in this case, disturbing facts. New Zealand Disasters is scary, exciting and alarming. The disturbing text is supported by Marcus Ivancic’s dramatic illustrations of the disasters that fill the pages with action and rich colour.

Te Reo Māori Books Section – Judged by Charisma Rangipunga 


HE ITI TE KUPU:  Māori metaphors and similes by Hona Black (Oratia Books)

Judge Charisma Rangipunga commented: ‘Hona Black’s bilingual collection of metaphors and similes is a tool not to be underestimated. It offers a range of things. On one side of the page it provides the learner with explanations of traditional Māori metaphors and similes in English. Look to the next page, and you find the same commentary offered in te reo Māori but with further insights into Mātauranga Māori.’


MIHI by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)

Judge Charisma Rangipunga commented Mihi is a beautifully illustrated picture book created for the youngest of our readers in te reo Māori. This book uses simple language to support the connection of the reader to place and to landscape.

Short Prose Section – Judged by Jane Higgins


Now and Then by David Vass
Judge Jane Higgins commented: ‘I found to be beautifully written and moving – even elegiac – in its telling. The language is lyrical, evocative and immersive, conjuring the landscape in a way that draws the past into the present, recalling powerfully what has been lost without being didactic.’

Angelina’s Clowns by Nandini Ghosh

Judge Jane Higgins commented: This is fun, wry and deft, delightful in its characterisation and both playful and dramatic in the unfolding of its story.’

Poetry Section – Judged by David Eggleton

Joint winners

Driving Through the Maruia Valley by Jeni Curtis

Judge David Eggleton commented: ‘Jeni Curtis, merging past and present, illuminates both. It registers the richness of a particular stretch of country, its colours and features: the frosting of manuka blossoms on a hillside, the mineral glow of a river, .the pioneer relics and  ghosts of ancestors. Here, the broken-in, hilly ground of settlement is multi-layered, both familial and epic, a vista made up of bits and pieces’

The Holiness of Attention by Michael Harlow

Judge David Eggleton commented: ‘This poem takes an oblique approach to the theme of heritage, in that it is about the cultural freight of history and the legacy of literary tradition. As its first line clearly indicates, it is inspired by Dante’s long narrative poem The Divine Comedy. This poet’s self-contained excerpt provides a poem dwelling on religious or mystical contemplation: it sings the human spirit.’

Special Prize for Canterbury region

Wily Publications Ltd prize for the best non-fiction book about the heritage of the Canterbury /West Coast region. Categories in this section can include heritage, memoir or biography.

House of Treasures: 150 Objects from Canterbury Museum Ngā Taonga Tuku Iho, published by the museum.

This book celebrates the Canterbury Museum’s 150th anniversary by detailing 150 taonga (treasures) from the Museum’s collection. Each one is photographed by Jane Ussher. Each of the 150 objects is accompanied by text written by Museum curators and researchers. A short history of the Museum, by Museum Director Anthony Wright and Curatorial Manager Sarah Murray, introduces the book.


Enough Horizon: the life and work of Blanche Baughan by Carol Markwell, 

One of the first writers to speak with an authentic New Zealand voice, Blanche Baughan (1870-1958) was known as a poet and local travel writer. It was in Akaroa, that Blanche’s writing and interests in the environment and her advocacy for the vulnerable in society flourished. She was a botanist, conservationist, humanitarian, and prison reformer.

Many thanks to the judges for their hard work and very thoughtful deliberations.

Interviews with any of the winners or runners-up can be organised through:

Steph Frewen

Jenny Haworth


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