New Zealand's only international piano contest - the Kerikeri International Piano Competition - saw Dong Wan Ha, from South Korea, walk away with the top prize.

Held at Kerikeri's Turner Centre from Friday to Sunday, Mr Dong returned home with the top prize and $15,000 in prize money.

Competition director, John Jackets, said this year was the most successful in the history of the Kerikeri International Piano Competition.

"There was a record 62 entries this year, an increase of 15 per cent over the previous event held in 2014," Mr Jackets said.


"The standard required to make the initial cut was noticeably higher than in previous years which suggests those who entered are further along in their careers than in previous years. That, in turn, indicates the international reputation of the event."

Mr Dong has been studying in the US. He entered the award when he saw it posted on an American website and said, it "fitted nicely with his summer break".

Born in 1988, he is a recipient of a special combined Artist Diploma in both piano performance and collaborative piano from the Cleveland Institute of Music. He is studying at Northwestern University for a Doctor of Musical Arts degree on full scholarship.

Other prize winners for the 2016 Kerikeri event were:

Second prize of $8000: Dong Yi (Tony) Lee, Australia. Born in in 1991, Mr Lee has gathered a reputation as one of Australia's finest upcoming pianists. He has appeared as a soloist with the BBC Philharmonic, Brussels Philharmonic, New Zealand Symphony, Queensland Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony and has performed across Europe, USA, China, New Zealand and Australia. He is studying in Belgium and working with Michael Endres at the Barratt Due Institute in Norway

Dong Yi (Tony) Lee came second in the Kerikeri International Piano Competition.
Dong Yi (Tony) Lee came second in the Kerikeri International Piano Competition.

Third prize of $4000: Samuel Deason, Canada. Born in 1998 in Saskatoon, Mr Deason lives in Baltimore where he studies with Boris Slutsky at the Peabody Institute on full scholarship. He is the first Canadian to enter the Kerikeri International Piano Competition.

Fourth prize of $1000, awarded at judges' discretion: Yi-Yang Chen, Taiwan.

Jill Cottle Award for the Best Sonata Performance, $2500: Dong-Wan Ha, South Korea.

Sandy McKay Encouragement Award, $1500: Chanyeong Yang, South Korea.

Sir Michael Hill Development Prize, a house concert at the Hills Lodge and mentoring by Sir Michael Hill, awarded to a contestant resident in New Zealand: Jane Ji-hyun Sohn.