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Visionary Property Developer Secures Future of Book Awards



The future of the country’s premier book honours – the New Zealand Book Awards – is now firmly secured, thanks to sponsorship from Ockham Residential, an Auckland urban development company widely considered to be one of the city’s most innovative and distinctive developers.

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.

Ockham Residential co-founder and director, Mark Todd, says there are strong synergies between the Book Awards’ aims and Ockham’s philosophy.

“We set up the Ockham Foundation, an education-focussed 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.

“Currently we are working with the University of Auckland to fund First Foundation Scholars studying science and we are funding two postgraduate scholarships in Statistics. We recently funded an outdoor classroom and nature trail at Grey Lynn Primary School.

“Partnering with the New Zealand Book Awards in their pursuit of critical thought, creativity and literary excellence is a great fit for us,” says Mr Todd.

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

Their sponsorship announcement comes just weeks after the announcement of a $50,000 prize for the top adult fiction work each year, to be provided by Tauranga community organisation, the Acorn Foundation, on behalf of one of its donors.

New Zealand Book Awards Trust chairwoman, Nicola Legat, says Ockham Residential is a truly outstanding sponsor.

“To have an organisation so philosophically aligned to the awards makes for a robust and rewarding partnership for us all. We look forward to a long and happy association.”

The New Zealand Book Awards winners will be announced at an event during the country’s largest literary gathering – the Auckland Writers Festival – in May 2016. As part of its awards sponsorship, Ockham also joins the suite of Auckland Writers Festival gold partners.

“It is so heartening when businesses recognise the value of working with the literary arts,” says Festival Director Anne O’Brien.

“The Auckland Writers Festival attracts some of New Zealand’s and the world’s biggest writing names. With attendance growing exponentially year-on-year (more than 62,000 in 2015), we are a future-focussed marquee proposition for businesses.”

There are four main awards categories:  Fiction, Poetry, General Non-Fiction and Illustrated Non-Fiction and, should there be sufficient entries, a Māori Language category. Three Best First Book Awards are also given.

Each category will be overseen by specialist judges, three per category, plus a Māori language adviser for the Māori language award.

The judges will select a long-list of around eight books in each category, which will be announced on November 25 2015. The shortlist of four books in each of the categories will be announced in early March 2016.

Entries to the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards open today via . Books published between June 1, 2014 and December 31, 2015 are eligible for entry.

For interview opportunities and further information please contact: Penny Hartill, director, hPR 09 445 7525, 021 721 424,

Editor’s Notes:
The New Zealand Book Awards are the country’s premier literary honours for works 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 Award and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. The honours, now given for Fiction, Illustrated Non-fiction, General Non-Fiction and Poetry, as well as for Best First Book and Māori language, are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust (a registered charity).  Members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Karen Ferns, Paula Morris, Kyle Mewburn, Stella Chrysostomou, David Bowles and Julia Marshall. Creative New Zealand is a significant annual funder of the awards.

The Trust also administers the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and National Poetry Day. Sponsors are still being sought for these awards.

Ockham Residential Limited is Auckland’s most progressive developer. Ockham Residential was founded in 2009 by Mark Todd and Ben Preston. “We are urban regenerators, we love Auckland, and we want to see Auckland’s urban built environment become as beautiful and as world class as its natural landscape,” says Mark Todd.  “We aim to lead by example, creating beautiful buildings from durable quality materials that age gracefully and minimise ongoing costs. ”

After completing a BSc in mathematics at the University of Auckland, Mark went into the building trade. Starting with a family company building stand-alone town houses, Mark developed an academic interest in enhancing liveability through quality building and intelligent use of land, aspect and architecture. Larger scale projects became possible with the collaboration with Ben.

Ben completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Auckland in 1995, majoring in economics, finance and mathematics. He went to work for Macquarie Group in trading, sales and senior management roles within its fixed income, currency and commodity businesses in Sydney, Johannesburg, London and Houston. After nearly 20 years with Macquarie, Ben retired in 2012 to become an educator. He has recently completed a Masters of Education at Rice University and is now teaching economics and mathematics at the Post Oak Montessori High School in Houston, Texas.

The Auckland Writers Festival is the largest literary event in New Zealand and the largest presenter of New Zealand literature in the world. Now in its 15th year, it hosts more than 150 writers from New Zealand and abroad over six days of discussion, conversation, reading, debate, performance, schools, family and free events ranging across fiction, non-fiction, poetry, music, theatre, culture, art and more.  Festival attendance increased 17% in 2015, to more than 62,000, following a 55% increase in 2014.

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