NZ Post ditches $200K book awards sponsorship

New Zealand Post will end its $200,000-plus sponsorship of the national book award at the end of this year, but will continue to support literacy programmes.

The state-owned enterprise, which has been grappling to return its ailing mail business to profit, will give up the naming rights to the book awards at the end of 2014, after sponsoring the adult awards for the last four years, and the children's book prizes since 1996.

Backing for literacy programmes, such as those run by the Howard League, Literacy Aotearoa and Books in Homes will continue.

"We are having to cut our cloth to suit, and we are reviewing all areas of the business to ensure the money we spend has the greatest impact," a spokeswoman for NZ Post told BusinessDesk.

NZ Post spent $116,000 on donations in the 12 months ended June 30, 2013, compared to $99,000 a year earlier, and $4.6 million on sponsorship, up from $3.6 million in 2012, according to its annual report. Under NZ Post's sponsorship, the $15,000 overall award for best book has been won by Kirsty Gunn, John Dawson and Rob Lucas, Chris Bourke, Judith Binney, and Emily Perkins.

Lincoln Gould, chief executive of Booksellers New Zealand, which organises the national literary awards, told BusinessDesk the sponsorship was worth "more than $200,000."

Last year NZ Post said it was cutting as many as 2,000 staff over the next three years and scaling back mail deliveries in a bid to return its traditional business to profitability as online communication replaces postal services. It is seeking growth by expanding its subsidiary, Kiwibank's, wealth and insurance offerings and boosting its logistics and parcels service.

NZ Post "have gone through a lot of changes," Gould said. "Their business model is changing and from their point of view clearly it doesn't fit where they want to go."