Awards and Competitions

Dunedin was the first city in New Zealand to initiate a writer’s fellowship and today considerable support is provided to many writers through the multitude of awards, competitions and residencies on offer. Dunedin is passionate about the arts, serious in investing resources to grow a nation of talented artists, and always interested in collaborating with other creative cities nationally and countries internationally. There is an abundance of opportunities that aim to nurture and promote Dunedin and New Zealand writers and writing, open to those who are published and unpublished.

A Land of Granite: Teen Writing Competition

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature in partnership with the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and in collaboration with Dunedin Public Libraries invited participation in a teen writing competition, timed to coincide with the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Colin McCahon exhibition A Land of Granite: McCahon and Otago.

The writing competition was open to high school students and called for fictional writing in response to McCahon’s paintings, limited to 750 words. The competition coincided with the lock down in New Zealand enforced to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during April through May 2020.

Colin McCahon is one of New Zealand’s key 20th Century painters. His work over forty-five years consisted of various styles including landscape, figuration, abstraction and the overlay of painted text. Dunedin Public Art Gallery curators Lucy Hammonds and Lauren Gutsell referenced the theme of a walking tour for this exhibition, following in the artist’s footsteps and displaying 14 locations McCahon had connections to in Dunedin.

Judging the competition was well-known Dunedin writer Robyn Maree Pickens. As well as her writing career Robyn has an MA in Art History and has worked in galleries and art project spaces in Auckland and Dunedin. Robyn’s art writing has appeared in ArtAsiaPacific online, ANZJA, Art + Australia online, The Pantograph Punch, and Art New Zealand. Currently she is a PhD candidate in ecological aesthetics at the University of Otago, and an art reviewer for the Otago Daily Times and Art News.  Robyn secured a writing residency at Saari Residence, Finland between January and February 2020.

Entries were of a particularly high standard despite participants being unable to view McCahon’s works in the flesh. Robyn was particularly impressed by the perseverance and quality of the responses among those who took part. The official prizegiving ceremony took place at Dunedin Public Art Gallery with good self-distancing practice adhered to.


Keep an eye out for the annual Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize and be in to win a cash prize along with the chance to be published in the highly regarded magazine, Landfall. There are two main prizes, with all winning and highly recommended entries being published on the Caselberg Trust website. Make your mark and get those creative juices flowing!

The Caselberg Trust purchased the Broad Bay, Dunedin home of the late John and Anna Caselberg in 2006, with the aim of hosting creative residencies in the house. Since inception, the Trust has held a variety of creative projects and events, as well as hosting a number of well-known New Zealand writers and artists at the cottage. 

Prizes — Caselberg Trust


The Dunedin Theatre Awards celebrate and highlight the amazing theatre talent we have in this great little city. The awards are inclusive with no distinction made between professional and amateur and aim to celebrate excellence across open-to-the-public productions, performances, works, readings are eligible.

The ‘Narrative / Script of the Year’ award offers writers the chance to demonstrate their literary skills as they are assessed against assorted criteria including performance, storytelling, artistery and engagement.


The Janet Frame Literary Trust, based in Dunedin, makes annual awards to a New Zealand poet or fiction writer, or a literary organisation which directly benefits New Zealand writers. Applicants are not invited to apply, but selected by an Advisory Panel. Past winners have included poet Peter Olds, fiction writer OE Middleton, and the NZ Society of Authors (PEN).

Janet Frame was awarded many prizes, awards, fellowships, scholarships and grants throughout her highly successful writing career. She was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to literature, awarded an honorary doctorate of literature from Otago University, and the Waikato University. She also received New Zealand's highest civil honour in 1990 when she was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand and was a nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Auckland poet Kathleen Grattan, a journalist and former editor of the New Zealand Woman's Weekly, died in 1990. Her work was published in Landfall and other volumes including Premier Poets, a collection from the World Poetry Society. Her daughter Jocelyn Grattan, also shared her mother's love of literature and generously left Landfall a bequest with which to establish an award in memory of Kathleen Grattan.

This biennial award is New Zealand’s premier prize for poetry, and is for an original collection of poems, or a long poem, by a New Zealand or Pacific resident or citizen. The winner receives $16,000, along with a 12 month subscription to Landfall and consideration for publication by the Otago University Press.


In 1997, Landfall, New Zealand’s foremost literary journal turned 50 and to mark such an occasion, launched an essay competition. The Landfall Essay Competition aims to encourage New Zealand writers to think aloud about New Zealand culture, and to revive and sustain the tradition of vivid, contentious and creative essay writing in this country. The winner receives $3000 and a year’s subscription to Landfall.


hosts an annual poetry competition open to New Zealand residents. The entry fees are used to assist with the printing of future PitWR seasonal cards.

The aim, with every seasonal poetry card, is to select poems which will take readers away from the sometimes quite stressful or anxious wait they may be experiencing. So we’re not looking for poems about medical issues/scenarios as competition entries. We’re more likely to choose poems, which are upbeat, uncomplicated and likely to leave a reader feeling happier about themselves and the world.

The four winning poems are included in the winter edition of the poetry cards and braille booklets. Prizes are either cash or book vouchers   All non-placed entries are considered for future poetry cards.


The Robert Burns Poetry Competition is offered each year by Dunedin Public Libraries. Entrants are encouraged to write a poem in English or Scots, inspired by the life or works of Robert Burns, and opportunities exist for entries under three categories; the young poet, the unpublished poet and published poets. Young poets must be aged between 5 and 17 years of age inclusive at the time of entry. Entries are judged by the Robert Burns Fellow and the winners are announced and presented with prizes on Robert Burns' birthday, 25 January.


Robbie Burns may be the greatest songwriter in history. He was certainly the outstanding ‘rock star’ of 18th-century Scotland and love for his poems and songs has spread around the world ever since. Organised by Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, this event calls for entrants to rejuvenate Robbie’s musical genius and rock their version of a Burns’ classic. There are two categories, one for youth and an open section. If you are in town on the bard’s birthday - make sure you pop on down to see the finalists - it will literally have you rocking in the Octagon.


A short and wonderful opportunity awaits. Short Film Otago supports the growth and development of screen-drama in Otago and encourages writers to develop excellence in short film scriptwriting. The best scripts submitted are guided through a rigorous script editing process, with two or three selected each year for production. Guidance and oversight are gifted by the Short Film Otago executive team.


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