CIJJIES winners declared: Akoorie and Mitchell are tops

The inaugural CIJJIES awards for New Zealand investigative journalism have declared Hamilton-based Herald reporter Natalie Akoorie winner of the supreme prize and Christchurch-based Stuff reporter Charlie Mitchell the “golden god of the future”.

In a glittering ceremony at the Massey University Cafe featuring sausage rolls and a cash bar, run as part of the the annual New Zealand Centre for Investigative Journalism conference, convenor Matt Nippert said Akoorie and Mitchell were worthy winners.

The judging panel comprised Martin van Beynen, Linda Clark, Rebecca Macfie, Mihingarangi Forbes and Nippert. Clear conflict of interest policies saw judges barred from considering work involving clients or colleagues.

Akoorie’s entry, a multi-part series of reporting exposing overspending at the Waikato District Health Board triggered multiple high-profile resignations and a Serious Fraud Office investigation, was lauded by the respected judging panel who said:

“Natalie’s work – as a part-timer in a regional office – forced the powerful to account and delivered real change. Her relentless quest to expose the unacceptable, and her relentless tenacity, is an inspiration to us all.”

Nippert said: “Natalie is the best thing to come out of Hamilton since Riff Raff.”

Mitchell’s story chronicling the one-sided sale of high country leasehold land owned by the Crown tenure, was considered a standout winner in the promising category – open to journalists in the first five years of their career.

The judges said: “Charlie turned a labourously-produced spreadsheet about big picture issues, into a beautifully-written series on starkly lopsided high country selloffs that have seen public land flogged off for a pittance in order to be turned into exclusive golf courses and hideouts for Peter Thiel.”

Nippert added: “Charlie is a golden god of the future.”

The CIJJIES are intended to promote the hard work behind the good work of New Zealand journalism, rewarding quality investigative stories regardless of publisher, medium or job title.

Nippert is unavailable to convene next years’ iteration of the CIJJIES, and is inviting respected figures of the journalism community to take over this extremely prestigious, but utterly volunteer, role.