The 2023 MLT New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards will be held from Friday 2 June – Sunday 4 June 2023. This is an amazing week of country music celebrations, including the NZ Country Music Awards, MLT Songwriting Awards and various concerts & busking competitions. This year all these events come under the whole umbrella of “Tussock Country – New Zealand’s 9 Day Country Music Festival”

Every year for the last 46 years Gore has hosted the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards. This event attracts artists from around the world and continues to grow in stature and popularity.

Audience levels reach over 5,000 and the entries in all sections and events total 700 competitors. Visitors to Gore leave with fond memories of the ‘Southern Hospitality’ and along with the locals, just soak up the Country Music atmosphere.

The Tussock Country Festival begins on Saturday 27 May and culminates later with the MLT Gold Guitar Awards Finals on Sunday June 4 2023. Wow, what a week we have planned. Everything country and something for everyone is on show for these glorious nine days.

The MLT NZ Gold Guitar Awards are held annually on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Queen’s Birthday Weekend. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday auditions are held in three venues starting at approximately 8.15am. At the auditions judges choose finalists in the various sections. The junior and intermediate finals are held on Saturday night and the senior final night is Sunday night. The Classic finals are held in the stadium on Sunday with the Professional Artists Showcase concert on mid Sunday afternoon. Contestants may enter as an individual, in a duet and/or as part of a group.

Contestants compete in either the junior, intermediate, senior or classic sections, depending on their age. There are a variety of sections, including male and female solo, gospel, traditional, new country, country rock, duet, vocal group, NZ Song and instrumental.

High quality bands provide backing for contestants. See the rules for details of the conditions of entry.


The New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards have come along way over the years and continue to be the biggest and most prestigious Country Music event in New Zealand.

The Gold Guitar Awards started back in 1974 after a group called Country Style Promotions presented the Gold Guitar Trophy to the Gore Country Music Club to be competed for at an annual Gold Guitar Awards.

A mere 38 entries competed for the 1974 Gold Guitar Award at a one-day event in the James Cumming Wing, Gore. Entries now reach well over 700 per event. 1974 saw a young singer from Putaruru, Patsy Riggir, take out the first Gold Guitar Award.

In 1979 the first Junior Gold Guitar Award was added. From that one day event back in 1974, the Gold Guitar Awards went to a weekend event and has now developed into several sections and events held over a 10 day period.

In the seventies, the Gold Guitar Awards started a Miss Gold Guitar Contest. This proved most successful and has carried on annually. 1986 saw the first Tamworth Country Music Festival Queen make an appearance at the Gold Guitars and each year since, Gore’s Australian sister city has sent a Queen representative. Married women were included by 1996 and the name was eventually changed to the Gore New Zealand Gold Guitar Queen. As part of her prize, the winner attended the Tamworth Country Music Festival each January. In 2005 however, the Gold Guitar Awards Committee joined with the Gore District Council to enlarge and enhance the event, renaming the event the Gore Gold Guitar Young Ambassador, open to men & women.

The Truck Shows, introduced in the early eighties, were an outstanding success with thousands of people lining the route. However other clubs started using the same idea and after some years the Truck Shows were replaced. It was pleasing to see that the truck show returned for the 25th Anniversary of the Gold Guitar Awards and is continuing annually.

1978 saw our wagon proclaiming Gore as New Zealand’s Capital of Country Music erected at the northern entrance to the town. Also in the seventies, we had our own radio station to cover the awards. A caravan was set up at the old Plunket Rooms in the Main Street. It was called ‘Hokonui Mountain Radio’ with announcers such as Jim Healey and John O’Connor. It was a huge success.

In 1980 the MLT Country Songwriting Contest was introduced. Jeff Rea from Crookston was the first winner with his song ‘Life on the Road’. Over the years, the contest has grown in popularity with many entries coming from Australia and America.

1984 saw the Gold Guitar Awards move into the Gore Town & Country Club. We had long since outgrown the seating capacity at the James Cumming Wing which only seated 700. The Town & Country Club stadium seats 1,500 and is also closer to other venues we use.

In 1987, The Gore Country Music Club bought their own club rooms which were formerly the Dalgetys’ Building in Tamworth Lane. That same year, we erected our large guitar in the Main Street, only to have it vandalized by youths pelting it with potatoes! Since then, the guitar is erected each year, advertising our Awards.

1988 saw John Martin of New Plymouth produce a rose for the Gold Guitar Awards and called it the ‘Gold Guitar Rose.’ Two hundred roses went on sale, acting as a fundraiser for the event.

Because of the Gold Guitar Awards and country music, Tamworth, NSW Australia and Gore formed a Sister City Relationship in 1992. This has continued to flourish over the years. The Tamworth Mayor, Sister City Chairman and Tourism Tamworth regularly attend our festival. While a large Gore contingent, including our Mayor and Councillors visit Tamworth each January for their Country Music Festival. In 1998, Gore Country Music Club Member, Jessie McChlery-Tytler was awarded the title of Special Ambassador for Tamworth by the Tamworth City Council for her hard work and dedication in fostering the new relationship.

The Mardi Gras and fireworks displays were incorporated into the Gold Guitar events in 1996 and proved to be an exciting addition to the awards calendar. Other added attractions have been various talent quests and the busking competitions. The New Zealand Line Dancing Championships were introduced in 1997 and this proved successful until 2002 when dwindling numbers saw the last event held.

All past Gold Guitar Award winners were invited back in 1998 for the 25th Silver Anniversary to perform songs that won them the Gold Guitar Trophy. While some had moved to Australia and their addresses were unknown, the Gold Guitars were thrilled to have 12 past winners return. Past band members, compere and radio announcers also attended.

Inductees into the Hands of Fame were being collected for many years and fifty-five hand prints were awaiting by the time the Hands of Fame structure was erected in town. Hopes were high that it would be erected in time for the 25th Anniversary, but sadly bureaucracy and red tape prevented that.

The year 2001 saw a revamp of the Songwriting Awards with the formation of the MLT Songwriters Trust – with finalists performing their own songs. A songwriting seminar was also introduced with guest speakers – including experienced New Zealand Songwriters, and recording industry professionals such as Mike Chunn. The new format has been extremely successful and the event is an important date for songwriting in NZ.

2001 also saw the Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, open the Awards. She acknowledged in her speech that the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards had put Gore on the map – nationally and internationally.

In January 2003, the Gore -Tamworth Sister City relationship was further enhanced by the opening of the Gore Garden in the Tamworth Botanical Gardens. The Tamworth 2002 Queen of Country Music, Rebecca Redfern, made the announcement at the Gore NZ Gold Guitar Queen Finals held in May, 2002. When our Queen, Natasha Houlihan visited Tamworth in January 2003 for their Country Music Festival, she and the new Queen carried out the first of an annual tree planting to celebrate the important and continuing relationship between the two Country Music Capitals.

In 2004, the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand decided that the Gold Guitar Awards were prestigious enough to implement, organise and stage the New Zealand Country Music Awards in partnership with RIANZ. It was the first time that these awards have been held outside of Auckland. During the evening where finalists sang their selected numbers, the Tui Trophy was presented for the Best Country Music Album of the Year and the Best Country Music Song of the Year. Such was the success of the evening, with its guest start Gary Morris from the USA, that it has become an annual event.

In 2005 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) joined with the NZ Gold Guitar Awards to provide the support and Award for the Best Country Music Song. This significant partnership of RIANZ, APRA and the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards in staging these professional awards promotes an important recognition of the New Zealand Country Music scene.

On the 9th May 2004, just three weeks before the 2004 Awards were to commence, the town of Gore was shocked with the Gore Country Music club rooms were torched by an arsonist. The building was razed to the ground and priceless memorabilia and preparations for the 2004 Awards were lost. In spite of this setback, the Awards went ahead and were bigger and better than ever. Such is the determination and resilience of our club members that the decision was made to find new club rooms.

The following year, 31 May 2005, saw the Grand Opening and unveiling of the Hands of Fame Structure. After 13 years of negotiation, finally the statue was installed. It was opened by the Gore Mayor, Tracy Hicks. 18 past inductees traveled from all over New Zealand and Australia to perform at the successful celebration show which was held in the Gore Town & Country Stadium that night. Some of the famous hand prints are from Kenny Rogers, Eddie Low, Patsy Riggir, Ricky Skaggs and Suzanne Prentice, to name a few.

In May 2006 the Tamworth Garden, beside the Hands of Fame structure as officially opened. The Mayor of Tamworth James Treloar, Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks, the Tamworth Queen of Country Music, Kasey McCulloch and our own Tamworth Ambassador, Jessie McChlery-Tytler, planted 6 native Australian plants to reinforce the special relationship with our Sister City Tamworth. The plantings are an annual event to coincide with the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards.

In 2006, The Gore Country Music Club’s dilemma about the building or purchase of new clubrooms was over when the Mataura Licensing Trust offered to sell the club their Longford Function Centre. It became an ideal home base to hold meetings and concerts. The building reinforces Gore’s title of Country Music Capital of New Zealand and provide a venue for visiting travelers, clubs, artist and entertainers. 2007 also saw the large wooden Gold Guitar restored and erected beside the new club rooms.

Winning Gold Guitar has been a significant stepping stone into a professional career for some of New Zealand and Australia’s most outstanding Country Music Artists. Singers such as Patsy Riggir, The Warratahs, Noel Parlane, Kylie Harris, Bob Mason & the Apache and songwriters such as Jeff Rea, Ian Betteridge, Rosy Parsons, Allan Barron, Joy Adams, Eddie Low, Terry Gavin and Judy McTaggart have gained much recognition, both nationally and internationally.

In recent years, modern Country Music has benefitted after Gold Guitar Winners like Camille Te Nahu, Kaylee Bell, Jenny Mitchell, Kayla Mahon and many others forge careers for themselves not just in Australiasia but also in Nashville.

In 2018 we welcomed long time supporter, The Mataura Licensing Trust to be our naming sponsor for the years ahead. Their un-waivering support, especially through the loss of our clubrooms in 2005, has meant our partnership has strong roots and we look forward to taking the MLT NZ Gold Guitar Awards into the future.

From humble beginnings in 1974 to the massive success of recent events, the MLT NZ Gold Guitar Awards are firmly known as the most successful musical event held in New Zealand and we are proud to be based in Gore, New Zealand’s Capital of Country Music, for the years ahead.