"From the start we’ve wanted to give back to those organisations and individuals that enrich us as a society. Critical thought and enquiry – and extending the joy of thinking and learning to all New Zealanders – is at the heart of the Ockham ethos." Mark Todd reflects on Ockham Residential’s partnership with the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.
2020 will mark the fifth year of our sponsorship of the New Zealand Book Awards. It’s a huge honour for our company, Ockham Residential, to have this association and I confess I pinch myself whenever I hear them called 'The Ockhams'. For the briefest moment I think, 'Oh, what a wonderful coincidence – we share the same name.' Then just 'Oh!' It’s a thrill – the very best kind of reflected glory.
I try to read each of the shortlisted works each year. The poems, the novels, the non-fiction – the lot. I didn’t get close this time round – I’m guessing I’m about a third of the way of the way through – but I have until the next awards next May to catch up. It does mean I have a full-on Christmas coming up.
I’ll have to be disciplined because the longlist for the 2020 Awards is announced in late-January. I can imagine the weeks leading up to the announcement must be exciting and nerve-shredding for the authors and publishers: I get quite anxious myself. And then to March when the shortlist comes out.
I feel for the authors: I feel for the judges too. Perhaps my favourite New Zealand book since we came on board is Greg McGee's The Antipodeans. It was longlisted in 2016: it's an immense and incredibly ambitious work (and if you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely must). I cried the first time I read it, cried even more the second time. As it happens, it wasn’t shortlisted that year, but it has a lifelong place on my internal bookshelf.
One of the very best aspects of 'The Ockhams' – see, I had to slip that in! – actually has nothing to do with us. It's the family of sponsors and supporters who have also joined up. I have terrible habit of inadvertently not acknowledging very important people so please forgive me if/when I miss out an absolute legend. The astonishingly generous sponsorship of the Acorn Foundation – $50,000 for the best work of fiction. The Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry. The Te Mūrau o te Tuhi Māori Language Award, supported by Creative New Zealand, for books written entirely in te reo Māori. And – most recently – MitoQ’s sponsonship of the four Best First Book Awards.
It’s a privilege to be part of the Book Awards whānau, overseen so expertly by Nicola Legat and Belinda Cooke, along with the New Zealand Book Awards trustees. The awards – and the recognition, profile and financial assistance they give to their creators – are a special part of Aotearoa / New Zealand’s cultural fabric and identity.
I have two young children and I guess I could shamelessly use them as an excuse for why I’m a little behind in my Ockham Awards reading. Over the first decade of their lives, I’ve read thousands of books with them – and sat snuggled up alongside them in bed, seen their imaginations bloom, seen them enchanted by the magic and mystery of these other worlds. Truth be told, I’ve often been ensnared myself. There’s a wonderful Dr Seuss quote you may have heard which says it all:
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
I believe the good doctor’s observation has never been more pertinent than today. Critical thought and enquiry – and extending the joy of thinking and learning to all New Zealanders – is at the heart of the Ockham ethos. To play a small part in taking what Stephen King called the "uniquely portable magic" of books to New Zealanders means the world to me – and to Ockham.
Thank you for letting us share in the story.
Photo credit: Mark presents the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards' Illustrated Non-Fiction Award to Sean Mallon, co-author with Sébastien Galliot of Tatau: A History of Samoan Tattooing, published by Te Papa Press. Photo by Marcel Trompe.
Five years ago we shared our inaugural Ockham mission statement, a declaration of what we stood for and what we hoped to achieve for Auckland. Tonight, at our 10th birthday celebration, we’ve revisited – refined, zhushed, simplifed! – that 2014 statement of intent.
Our vision for Auckland is unashamedly ambitious: we want our buildings to be as beautiful as the landscapes they sit within. This is a stunning city – we have a subtropical rainforest on our doorstep, the vast, wild, wondrous West Coast beaches just beyond. There’s the extraordinary beauty of the Hauraki Gulf and its 50 islands, then the city itself built among 50 maunga, the volcanic sentinels that centre you wherever you are.
And so we set out to make buildings which deserve to belong here. We want to leave a legacy to the city – elegant, enduring buildings that people like to look at, long to touch, love to live in. We seek to lead by example: we hope other developers will also look long-term, start seeing housing as infrastructure, the building blocks of community – and not merely as fields in an Excel spreadsheet.
We love Auckland. It’s really that simple, and perhaps a future mission statement will be pared back to these three words (less is more and all that). But for now, there's a bit more that needs to be said: we have a responsibility to ensure that all our people, all Aucklanders, can make the most of their lives in this glorious place. Find the good life for themselves and their whānau.
But enough of the preamble (and drum roll please)...
Ockham Residential's Mission Statement
"To make beautiful buildings that people love to live in, homes that honour this dynamic Pacific city, stand the test of time, inspire others – and bring an awesome Auckland lifestyle to as many people and communities as we can."
It’s some view. Mark Todd, founder of Ockham Residential, has given me the Waitakeres, the sun sliding slowly behind him. Sitting opposite, he looks east – towards the Bridge, the Sky Tower, the Christmas lights-like twinkle of Ponsonby Road. If you’re going to talk Auckland then this residents’ rooftop garden atop The Isaac on Surrey Crescent offers an epic stage.
“I hope I don’t sound overly Ozymandias,” Todd says, “but I love looking out from here at what we’ve built for Auckland.”
The Turing, the brilliant-white 27-unit development on Great North Road now catching the last slivers of light. There’s Daisy, tucked up against Mt Eden, the 10-Homestar building which incurred Mike Hosking’s ire (Todd’s withering Spinoff riposte went minorly viral and the apartments sold out soon after). And this one, The Isaac, which typifies the company’s philosophy – to construct elegant and enduring buildings that people like.
Until recently Todd lived here and two senior Ockham execs still do. That’s an Ockham theme: its leaders like to live in the homes they build. “We’re proud of our buildings, but even prouder of the communities which form around them. Communities we’re committed to and which are deepening all the time.”
Which brings us to The Greenhouse, Ockham’s newest development on the corner of Williamson Ave and Pollen St (and Todd’s intended future home). A bold 10-storey development that’ll both stand out and fit in, the Greenhouse will be clad in distinctive green-glazed bricks which took Todd years to find.
“It’s been a slightly obsessive quest,” he admits. “But this is the building we’ve been working towards for a decade.” Consider it Ockham’s take on the Aotearoa design aesthetic. “Our palette is inspired by the sparkling blues of our sister harbours and deep greens of the Waitakeres,” Todd says. The use of durable, elemental materials like glazed bricks, brass, timber and slate is, of course, an Ockham hallmark, but The Greenhouse adds a lick of luxury to the patina. “Raw sophistication,” is what Todd likes to call it.
Part of the Ockham ethos is that its buildings last – and age gracefully. “The Greenhouse won’t feel dated within a few years of opening,” Todd contends. “You know, that contemporary style that’s already obsolete.“The re-zoned site demanded a landmark building. And we believe The Greenhouse will be a homage to Auckland’s transformation, a striking recognition of our South Pacific identity.
“For those who love Tāmaki Makaurau as much as we do, that’s pretty exciting.”
First published in Ponsonby News - November 2019. See https://thegreenhouse.apartments for more.
Dame Fiona Kidman has won the $53,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for her novel, This Mortal Boy, a work recreating the events leading to the real life hanging of 'jukebox killer' Paddy Black at Mount Eden prison in 1955. Judges described it as "moving, memorable, authentic and urgently relevant to our times".
The book published by Penguin Random House received the honour ahead of a strong line-up of finalists comprising Lloyd Jones (The Cage), Kate Duignan (The New Ships) and Vincent O’Sullivan (All This by Chance) at the Auckland Writers Festival marquee event held in the Aotea Centre this evening.
"In This Mortal Boy, Fiona Kidman has written an intensely human and empathetic story," the judge's continued. "With seeming effortlessness, she pulls the reader into mid-century New Zealand — the restlessness of a new urban youth culture, the moral panic that led to the Mazengarb report, the damning assumptions of the legal profession and the unchallenged omissions that eased the pathway to a young man’s death," said this year’s fiction category judges.
New York Times' best-selling author and academic Joanne Drayton won the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction for Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love (Otago University Press).
The category judges said Hudson & Halls is not simply the story of celebrity chefs: "It is a generous, multi-layered, and touching account of companionship and enduring love.
"Set against the backdrop of the double act many of us will remember, Hudson & Halls reveals the humour and drama of this couple’s onscreen chemistry, and is a deeply moving and often surprising account of their private life. Set within the context of significant social and political moments over four decades and three countries, Joanne Drayton’s fresh approach to storytelling makes this a must-read."
Helen Heath won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry for her collection Are Friends Electric? (Victoria University Press).
"By turns thoughtful and moving, Are Friends Electric? asks how the material world might mediate — or replace — human relationships.
"Helen Heath’s collection impressed the judging panel with its broad thematic reach, its willingness to tackle complex issues, and its poetic risk-taking," said the judges.
Senior curator Sean Mallon and French ethnologist Sébastien Galliot took the Illustrated Non-Fiction category for their work Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing (Te Papa Press).
The book which traces the art form from 3,000 years ago to the present day is described by judges as a visual feast.
"...quality design is met with innovative writing that both records and opens up new territory, creating a book that will expand and enrich the knowledge of readers throughout Aotearoa, the Moana Pacific and beyond. Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing celebrates the tactile pleasure of a book in the hand, and should be acknowledged as a milestone in contemporary publishing."
Te Mūrau o te Tuhi, a discretionary Māori Language Award, was presented this year for the landmark work He Kupu Tuku Iho: Ko te Reo Māori te Tatau ki te Ao by pioneering language and tikanga academics Sir Tīmoti Kāretu and the late Dr Wharehuia Milroy published by Auckland University Press.
Te Reo Māori judge Dr Ruakere Hond acknowledged the very recent passing of Dr Milroy in announcing the award.
"He tai mutunga kore te ranga whai reo e āki kau ana ki te aroaro o te tokorua kātuarehe, ngā ruānuku o te reo o nehe, ki nāianei rangi. He whāiti taua urunga, engari i konei ka wherawhera mai. He maioha tēnei nā Tīmoti Kāretu rāua ko Te Wharehuia Milroy, kia hou mai te tāura ki waenga pū i ā rāua kōrerorero, he kōrero paki, he hokinga mahara o te ohinga, ā, pakeke noa. He puanga rautangi ki te hauangi. Kapohia e te tini. He tatau e puare ana i tō rāua ao.
"Staunch advocates of our spoken reo have relentlessly sought to sit down with these two most influential exponents of reo Māori, from the past and for today. Few have had the opportunity; this book now opens that door. Tīmoti Kāretu and the late Wharehuia Milroy invite the reader into their conversations, their yarns and musings from decades of cultural experience. This book’s value is undeniable. Its language, accessible. This is a doorway to their world,” said Dr Hond.
The General Non-Fiction, Poetry, Illustrated Non-Fiction category and Māori Language Award winners each took home a $10,000 prize.
Four MitoQ Best First Book Awards were also presented at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
The Hubert Church Prize for a best first book of Fiction went to Kirsten Warner for The Sound of Breaking Glass (Mākaro Press).
The E.H. McCormick Prize for a best first work of General Non-Fiction was presented to Chessie Henry for We Can Make a Life (Victoria University Press).
The Jessie Mackay Prize for a best first book of Poetry was awarded to Tayi Tibble for Poūkahangatus (Victoria University Press).
The Judith Binney Prize for a best first work of Illustrated Non-Fiction went to John Reid for Whatever It Takes: Pacific Films and John O’Shea 1948-2000 (Victoria University Press).
Each MitoQ Best First Book Award winner received $2500.
The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, the Acorn Foundation, the Royal Society Te Apārangi, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, MitoQ and the Auckland Writers Festival.