Alternative folk band Lawrence Arabia has been crowned the first winner of the Taite Music Prize, New Zealand’s equivalent of the annual U.K. Mercury Prize.

The artist’s second album "Chant Darling" (Honorary Bedouin) was named the best New Zealand album of 2009 at the inaugural event, which was held last night (March 31) in Auckland. The event was backed by industry groups Independent Music New Zealand (IMNZ) and Phonographic Performances NZ (PPNZ).

Named after the late Dylan Taite, a respected New Zealand music writer, the contest is modeled on similar international awards, which honor artistic merit and creative excellence, such as the U.K.’s Mercury Prize and the Australian Music Prize, with the winner decided by a judging panel comprising of record label representatives, music journalists and radio execs.

U.K.-based Lawrence Arabia — whose real name is James Milne — icked up a $NZ10, 000 ($7,000) cash prize and accepted his award via a video message from the U.K.

The Taite prize is the second major award win for Milne in the last six months. Last September, he won the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) New Zealand Silver Scroll award for best song for "Apple Pie Bed", taken from “Chant Darling”.

"Chant Darling" is released by Bella Union Records in U.S., Canada, U.K. and Europe; Mistletone in Australia.

The artist is currently on a U.S. tour, booked by Paradigm Agency, supporting U.K. folk-pop outfit Fanfarlo.