Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she personally craves the day when all New Zealanders recognise why the arts are important.

Speaking at the 9th Annual Auckland Theatre Awards this week, Ardern, who is also Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, said she wants the day to come when we don't have to keep emphasising the role the arts play in daily life because we all just know it.

"When we mention the word wellbeing and we think about the arts; when we mention the word community and we think about the arts. When we mention togetherness, identity, culture, our heritage, and we think about the arts. And I crave the day when we stop explaining ourselves and people just know it."

Other (Chinese) was recognised at the Auckland Theatre Awards for its originality and overall excellence.
Other (Chinese) was recognised at the Auckland Theatre Awards for its originality and overall excellence.

Ardern presented the Hackman Cup for Most Original Production of the Year to OTHER [chinese], a documentary theatre production where director Alice Canton and producer Julie Zhu invited 100 members of the Chinese community to share their stories about what being Chinese means to them.

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The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Jeremy Collins, whose career in theatre began in lighting design at Mercury Theatre. Collins went on to develop Selecon (now Philips Selecon), one of the world's foremost producers of lighting for theatre, as well as providing support to others in the industry.

Excellence awards, decided by a panel of five industry judges, were presented to:

Overall Body of Work: John Verryt (Set Design)
Overall Body of Work: FAFSWAG
Overall Production: OTHER [chinese] directed by Alice Canton, produced by Julie Zhu
Overall Production: Mirror, Mirror directed by Troy Tuua, produced by Mangere Arts Centre
Overall Production: Nell Gwynn directed by Colin McColl, produced by Auckland Theatre Company
Performance: Nicole Whippy for The Mountaintop
Performance: Rutene Spooner for Super HUGH-Man
Innovation of Form: Peter & the Wolf, created by Sophie Roberts & Leon Radojkovic, produced by Silo Theatre
Excellence in Adaptation: E Kore A Muri E Hokia (Mo & Jess Kill Susie) by Te Rehia Theatre
Excellence in Community Spirit: Auckland Fringe Festival
Outstanding Newcomers: Leki Jackson-Bourke, Julie Zhu and Bronwyn Ensor

People's choice awards were also made in a number of sometimes more humorously-themed categories.

The Actors Equity Award for Best Show by Breakthrough or Emerging artists: I Ain't Mad At Cha written by Turene Jones, directed by Jatinder Singh, produced by Ngahiriwa Rauhina and presented by Waiti Productions.
The Sharu Loves Hats Award for Best Pash: Ashleigh Taylor and Lucy Lawless and then Lucy Lawless and Liv Tenant in Pleasuredome
Gail Cowan Management's Best Entrance Award: The women in the cast of Auckland Theatre Company's Boys
Tour Makers' Award for Travelling Hero: Hudson & Halls Live!
The Mangere Arts Centre Best Ensemble Performance: Sau E Siva's Lalelei and Swabhoomi: Borrowed Earth by Prayas Theatre
The Philips Entertainment Award for Best Lighting Design: Rachel Marlow for… too many shows to mention.
The Pantograph Punch Award for Best Review: Kate Prior's Pleasuredome review
Te Pou Theatre Award for Best Show Not Made by Pakeha: Meet the Fakas by Leki Jackson-Bourke, Maree Webster and Jayne Tupou Uhi
The Playmarket Award for Best Line in a Kiwi show: "I'm more cooked than a Kaikohe P den" — Johanna Cosgrove in Aunty.
APRA's Award for Best Music or Sound Design: Leon Radojkovic for Amadeus
The Johnson & Laird Management Award for Best Supporting Cast Member: Byron Coll in everything!
Auckland Actors Award for Best Onstage Death or Injury: Tim Carlsen for cutting his hand off in Spirit House
Inside Out Most Innovative Set Award: Peter & the Wolf by Dan Williams
iTICKET Award for Best Producer: Zanetti Productions
The Actors Program Award for Best Nudity: Arlo Gibson and Ash Jones in Non-Flower Elements
The Elephant Publicity Award for Best Poster: Earthquakes in London by Sacha Stejko & Last Tapes Theatre
The Action Actors Award for Best Portrayal of a Real Job: Jack Buchanan in Peer Gynt as a tortured playwright
PatronBase Award Best Unsung Venue Staff Member: Bar manager at the Basement Theatre Faith Tapsell