Convenor of judges Maia Bennett (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) is a secondary school and public librarian in Wānaka. A lifelong library lover, Maia’s professional path has traversed information technology, academic research and early childhood education, with all roads leading to librarianship. Knowing the vital role of school libraries in fostering literacy and wellbeing, Maia strives to provide a diverse and inclusive collection of books so students can see themselves and learn about others. Maia was a judge of the 2023 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Belinda Whyte is the Resource Teacher of Literacy for the Horowhenua region, based in Levin, a job that allows her to indulge her passion for books while supporting young students on their literacy learning journey. Belinda is national secretary of the New Zealand Literacy Association, and as president of the Manawatū chapter she was instrumental in organising a Reading for Pleasure Festival in Palmerston North in 2023. Belinda recently completed a Master of Education that centred on students’ online book discussions.
Helen Wadsworth has co-owned and managed The Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop in Tāmaki Makaurau for the last eight years. Her roles at the shop include book buying, marketing and of course recommending books to customers. Helen has read thousands of books, from many genres, for children of all ages. She particularly loves the familiarity of books set in Aotearoa by local writers and illustrators.
Kitty Brown (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe, Ngāti Kahungunu) is a māmā, an award-winning author and an avid reader of children's literature from Ōtepoti. Her successful publishing partnership Reo Pēpi has 10 bestselling bilingual children's titles. Professionally Kitty is focused on elevating Kāi Tahu culture and te ao Māori in her community across diverse storytelling mediums including events, architecture, film and visual art. In 2023 she was Festival Director for the Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival.
Ko Kurahaupō te waka i kawe ai i ōku tupuna ki Aotearoa, nō tāwhiti rā anō.
Mat Tait (Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Kuia) is a freelance artist, illustrator, writer and te reo Māori tutor based in the Motueka area. With a Bachelor in Fine Art in painting from Ilam School of Arts, his illustrations and comics work reflect a longstanding interest in pūrākau, mythology and local history. Mat won the Elsie Locke Non-Fiction Award and the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year at the 2023 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for Te Wehenga. Mat will bring his knowledge of te ao Māori and te reo Māori to both the English language and Te Kura Pounamu judging panels.
Ko te Tāhūhū o Haokitaha te Mauna, Ko Ōhinemataroa te Awa, Ko Mārini-a-wai te Kōawa, Ko Te Papakaina te Marae, Ko Nāti Koura te Hapū, Ko Tūhoe te iwi. He tanata ō Nāti Koura tēnei e kirikawa ki te Rākau.
Convenor of Te Kura Pounamu award panel for 2024 Lawren Matrix (Tūhoe) is the Whānau Learning Specialist for Auckland Council Libraries. A lifelong lover of libraries, cultivator of knowledge and advocate for the power of storytelling, Lawren has dedicated her career to advancing literacy, social and academic outcomes for Māori – a nod to her upbringing in Kawerau and schooling at St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College. Lawren has a Bachelor of Māori Education from Te Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. She previously judged Te Kura Pounamu award in 2016.
Nō ngā Pukepuke Rau o Ngāti Hine a Mihi Te Rina, heoi, i tupu ake i ngā rekereke o ngā tini iwi o te rohe o Tāmaki Makaurau.
Mihi Te Rina Henare (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) is an Assistant Support Archivist at Archives New Zealand in Tāmaki Makaurau. A raukura of Te Aho Matua, with a Bachelor of Library and Information Studies, she has a passion for te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, and is excited about the future of pukapuka Māori and a landscape that will encourage more Māori to become writers and storytellers. Mihi Te Rina was a judge on the 2023 Te Kura Pounamu panel.
He uri tēnei nō Ngāti Porou, Tūhoe, nō Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa anō hoki.
Quintin Te Maari (Ngāti Porou, Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa) is currently undertaking teacher training. He is a raukura of Ngā Kura-ā-iwi, and has a deep passion for storytelling and literature. Quintin has served as Cultural Lead at the Manurewa Youth Council and as a Youth MP for Youth Parliament 2022. He is the co-founder of Tukuna, a company using QR-coded technology to enhance Māori education, which he set up through the Young Enterprise Scheme.