Property developer saves book awards

Auckland developer Ockham Residential has stepped in to save the NZ Book Awards.

The newly minted partnership provides the financial underpinning required for the prestigious literary awards to flourish, alongside support from the Auckland Writers Festival, which will produce and showcase the awards event.

New Zealand Post pulled its long-running sponsorship of the event last year and Ockham has taken its place.  

Established in 2009 by Mark Todd and Ben Preston, Ockham Residential has completed more than $140 million of residential developments on the Auckland isthmus and has a further $110 million of development in the planning stage or under construction.

Ockham Residential co-founder and director Mark Todd says there are synergies between the book awards’ aims and Ockham’s philosophy.

“We set up the Ockham Foundation, an education-focused charity, concurrently with our commercial development company.

“Right from the start, we knew we wanted to operate a business that had ambitions wider than profitability.

“Original thinking and critical thought are two key elements of public discourse we wished to promote by way of education,” Mr Todd says.  

The Ockham Foundation is working with the University of Auckland to fund First Foundation Scholars studying science and it is also funding two postgraduate scholarships in statistics. Recently it funded an outdoor classroom and nature trail at Grey Lynn Primary School.

Mr Todd says partnering with the NZ Book Awards in its pursuit of critical thought, creativity and literary excellence is a great fit for the company.

There are four main awards book awards categories:  Fiction, poetry, general non-fiction and illustrated non-fiction and, should there be sufficient entries, a Maori language category. Three best first book awards are also given. A long list of about eight books in each category will be announced in November.

The book awards’ winners will be announced at an event during the country’s largest literary gathering – the Auckland Writers Festival – in May next year.

Last month Book Awards Trust chairwoman Nicola Legat announced a jump in the fiction prize from $10,000 to $50,000. “That amount of money can be life-changing for a novelist,” she says.

Entries to the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are now open at http://booksellers.co.nz/awards/new-zealand-book-awards/submissions.

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