Authors honoured with $60,000

Three of New Zealand's leading writers have been honoured at the annual Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement.

Joy Cowley, James McLeish and Cilla McQueen will each receive $60,000 in recognition of their contribution to New Zealand literature.

Minister for Arts and Culture Christopher Finlayson, presenting the awards at Premier House on behalf of the prime minister, said the awards rewarded excellence and helped raise the profile of New Zealand writers.

"I am delighted to see the life work of three more outstanding writers recognised through these awards tonight," Mr Finlayson said.

Creative New Zealand chair Alastair Carruthers thanked the writers for the "outstanding" contribution they had made to New Zealand literature.

"These three writers represent the essence of New Zealand's literary heritage. Through their work New Zealanders can celebrate this nation's cultural identity," he said.

Cowley is internationally recognised for her contribution to children's literacy and has written more than 600 early readers, along with novels and poetry for children.

She has also worked as a teacher of creative writing for children in more than 10 countries and won critical acclaim for her adult novels and short stories.

Auckland-born McNeish is a novelist, biographer and playwright who also worked as a documentary-maker and journalist for the BBC, the Guardian and The Observer

He has written more than 20 books, the most recent being the novel The Crime of Huey Dunstan.

Bluff poet McQueen is the New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2009-2011, has published 10 volumes of poetry and has won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry three times

Her habit of keeping a diary has shaped much of her work, which approaches life as a mixture of moments, casual acquaintances and intimate confessions.

Every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate their choice of an outstanding writer and the nominations are assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations forwarded to the Creative New Zealand for approval.