New Zealand 🇳🇿 is a multicultural country. While English is commonly spoken, its official languages are New Zealand Sign language and Māori. Though not having a state religion, it primarily practices Christianity and is part of the Commonwealth of Nations.

General censorship[]

New Zealand is a community-minded nation. Thus, any material that is likely to be injurious to the public good gets classified as objectionable (meaning that certain publications are banned effectively. This means possession, distribution, importation or ownership of that material could be confiscated either by New Zealand Customs, Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand Police or by the OFLC and therefore it is illegal to possess, import, own or distribute objectionable material that is banned by NZ authorities could land you a prison sentence of 10 years for possession or 14 years for distribution).

  • Suicide is rather a sensitive subject matter in New Zealand because of the high statistical rates of young New Zealanders taking their own lives without proper help.
  • Also a very sensitive subject matter in New Zealand is child exploitation and sexualisation of a minor. This issue is rather concerning. Publications containing that sort (mostly in some Anime in which the NZ censors takes issue with) are banned.
  • Following the 2019 Mosque Attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand amping up its censorship laws by making possession of extremist material illegal. Therefore anyone possess the extremist material (or in this case possession of objectionable material)could be sentenced to 10 years in jail and a fine of $50,000. But that’s not all. Distribution of objectionable material could send someone up to 14 years in jail.

In order for a film or video game to be released in New Zealand, they must:

  • Be classified by either the Australian Classification Board in Australia or the BBFC in the United Kingdom before being given with a New Zealand classification rating for public release. If they are being given a classification rating of unrestricted G, PG or M in Australia or the equivalent one in the United Kingdom, it will be cross-rated. However this may not be easy as it seems. New Zealand's treatment of violence is stricter than that of Australia compared to offensive language and sex.
  • For Video Games that have been classified as unrestricted G, PG or M from Australia are exempt from being classified in New Zealand. If they have a restricted classification from Australia or the United Kingdom, they'll need to be classified with a New Zealand classification rating before releasing it to the public.

Unlike Australia (which has a rather conservative approach for all media), New Zealand's censorship law is fairly liberal. In fact, New Zealand is more lenient towards sex, nudity and coarse language, but harsher on violence (unlike Australia).

When it comes to films and other media, New Zealand usually classify films that are based on either the Australian or British rulings (occasionally the Australian made rulings are more common in NZ). NZ’s OFLC is run by the government (similar to the Australian Classification Board in Australia) and focuses on material that may considered injurious to the public good. Material such as sex, crime, cruelty and horror should be dealt with Extent, Degree or Manner. However, NZ's classification law is enforced under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 and by the Censorship Compliance Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs, NZ Customs and NZ Police. An adult who gives a child or teen a restricted movie, video game or pornographic item will be reliable for a $3,000 fine (roughly US$1,979.08) while Corporates will be given a heavy fine of $10,000 (roughly US$6,596.49).

Book censorship[]

Pre-Indecent Publications Tribunal (1841–1963)[]

The earliest New Zealand legislation solely for the purpose of censorship was the Offensive Publications Act 1892, although Customs regulations prohibiting the importation of indecent material had existed since 1858. The Offensive Publications Act outlawed "any picture or printed or written matter which is of an indecent, immoral, or obscene nature". In 1910 the Indecent Publications Act came into force, replacing earlier censorship legislation. The Act introduced the defence of literary, scientific, or artistic merit in a work. The purpose of this according to the Attorney-General John Findlay was to "protect the liberty which improves and ennobles a nation, while removing the licence which degrades".

Under the Customs Act 1913, any publication could be banned by an order of cabinet. In May 1921, following the First Red Scare, a cabinet directive came into force prohibiting "any document which incites, encourages, advises, or advocates violence, lawlessness, or disorder, or expresses any seditious intention". The Customs Department appointed a censor in July 1921 to deal with seditious publications. In 1922 it was decided that the role of the censor would be expanded to deal with indecent publications as well. The censor immediately released the majority of the novels on the Customs Department's banned list, except for most books about contraception.

The Customs Act 1913 prohibited the importation of all "indecent or obscene articles", which gave considerable discretionary power to the Customs Department as the terms "indecent" and "obscene" weren't explicitly defined. The definition typically used by courts followed the Hicklin rule. This changed in 1939 when the High Court considered factors such as literary merit and circumstances of publication in its ruling on The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio.

In 1923 the book Safe Marriage by Ettie Rout was banned to public outcry. As a result, a committee was created to advise the Customs Department on book censorship. By the 1930s, the Customs Department's advisory committee had fallen into disuse. The committee was reinstated in February 1953 and would last until 1963.

  • Nana - this novel by Émile Zola was banned by the Magistrate's Court, when 1888–89, when publisher Henry Vizetelly was prosecuted in the United Kingdom for obscene libel for publishing translated works of Émile Zola. This led to an investigation into Zola's works by the Christchurch police in which detectives were sent to local bookshops to enquire after novels by Zola. Five men were arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for stocking indecent books. This was the first prosecution for indecent publications in a New Zealand court. One of the books, Nana, was also involved in the English case. All of the books were imported before the English case, and according to the defence counsel, copies of the books were available for sale in almost every New Zealand bookshop before the Vizetelly's prosecution in Britain.
  • Five Nights, Six Women and The Yoke - these novels by Victoria Cross were banned by the Magistrate's Court in 1908, when bookshop Whitcomb & Tombs in Christchurch was prosecuted for selling works by Victoria Cross after a police detective was sent to purchase copies. The books were ruled indecent under the Offensive Publications Act 1892.
  • The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud was banned by the Customs Department in 1899, being allowed only for professional use.
  • The Perfumed Garden - this sex manual translated by Sir Richard Francis Burton was banned before the Indecent Publications Act 1964. It was ruled not indecent in 1966.
  • Wise Parenthood and Married Love by Marie Stopes and The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia by Bronislaw Malinkowski were allowed to be imported by the Customs Department "on the understanding that no guarantee is given that action will not be taken by the police if any offence in respect of them is subsequently committed under the Indecent Publications Act 1910".
  • My Life and Loves - this autobiography of Frank Harris was banned before the Indecent Publications Act 1964. Found not indecent by the IPT in 1967.
  • Six Chapters in a Man's Life - this novel by Victoria Cross was on the Customs lists of prohibited books in 1921.
  • A Spar Love Affair by Guy de Maupassant and Stolen Sweets by Charles Paul de Kock were banned by the Magistrate's Court as they were found indecent in 1917 by a Magistrate's Court under the Indecent Publications Act 1910. The Magistrate S.E. McCarthy held the opinion that wide dissemination of the books "would tend to generate libidinous desires, and these desires not infrequently prove, for their unhappy victims, that broad highway which leads to the mental hospital, the gaol, and the premature grave."
  • Damaged Goods - this libretto by Eugène Brieux was Seized by Customs in 1917 for being indecent and Released in April 1922. Its English translation was seized by Customs in 1921 for being indecent. Sinclair wrote to the Comptroller of Customs on 28 December 1921: "It is hard for me to believe that your government, which has the reputation of being one of the most liberal in the world, should bar serious educational writing upon the subject of venereal disease. My novel is merely a translation of the famous play by E. Brieux, which has been played in all the leading cities in America." The book was released in April 1922.
  • In the early 20th century, the sex manuals The Wife's Handbook by Henry Arthur Allbutt and How to Prevent Pregnancy by G. Hardy were seized by the Customs Department, along with the novels Over Life's Edge by Victoria Cross, The Thing by Gertie de S. Wentworth-James and Sylvia's Marriage by Upton Sinclair, as well as the magazine La Vie Parisienne.
  • Safe Marriage - this non-fiction book by Ettie Rout, which advocated the use of contraception in marriage, was banned by the Customs Department in 1923 to public outcry ultimately leading to the creation of a committee to advise Customs on book censorship. By 1930, the ban had been reversed.
  • The English translation of One Thousand and One Nights by the Casanova Society was restricted to students of anthropology and ethnology by the Customs Department.
  • The Butcher Shop - this novel by Jean Devanny was the first book to be banned in New Zealand. In March 1926, the Prime Minister's secretary received correspondence from London that described the book as "disgusting indecent communistic", and in April that year Customs was advised to ban it: "The Board considers this a bad book all round – sordid, unwholesome and unclean. It makes evil to be good. We are of the opinion that it should be banned."
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence appeared on the Customs Department's list of banned books. It was found not indecent by the Indecent Publications Tribunal in 1965.
  • A Handbook of Marxism by Emile Burns was banned by the Customs Department in 1935.
  • The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall and The Hindu Art of Love were banned in 1929.
  • Henry Miller novels such as Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were on the Customs Department's list of banned books for periods between 1934 and 1964. Found not indecent by the IPT in 1967.
  • Droll Stories - this collection of short stories by Honoré de Balzac was on the Customs Department's list of prohibited books. Eventually removed. Banned by a Magistrate's Court in 1935.
  • The August 1937 edition of Smokehouse Monthly was banned for being indecent.
  • 300,000 American pulp fiction magazines seized by Customs in 1938 for glorifying violence.
  • The Decameron by GIovanni Boccaccio - In 1939 a policeman borrowed The Decameron from a private lending library. He was shocked by its contents and had a court case brought against the owner of the club. The Magistrate's Court found the book to be indecent by the Hicklin rule. Later the same year, the High Court abandoned the Hicklin rule and overturned the finding that it was indecent. The Supreme Court gave greater weight to the circumstances of the book's publication and its artistic merit. It was the first case in New Zealand of evidence of a publication's literary merit being heard in court.
  • Forever Amber - this novel by Kathleen Winsor was banned by Minister of Customs Walter Nash for giving undue prominence to sex. The ban was implemented through import licence regulations which meant that private imports were not prohibited. The New Zealand Library Association objected to the ban, arguing that import licensing regulations could be used to place an uncontestable ban on any imported publication.
  • The novel For the Rest of Our Lives by Dan Davin was seized by the Customs Department in 1947.
  • The medical manuals Psychology of Sex by Havelock Ellis, Encyclopaedia of Sex Practice, Birth Control Today by Marie Stopes and the short story "Intimacy" by Jean-Paul Sartre were allowed to be imported on the understanding that there was no guarantee that police might not prosecute at a later date.
  • James Joyce's Ulysses was allowed to be imported on the condition that it would be sold "only to members of the educational profession and bona fide students of literature, and on the understanding that no guarantee is given that action will not be taken by the police if any offence in respect of them is subsequently committed under the Indecent Publications Act, 1910."
  • Boss of Britain's Underworld - this memoir of Billy Hill was deemed indecent by the Department of Justice in 1956 for encouraging lawlessness. The Minister of Justice stated publicly in 1956 that anyone selling the book would be prosecuted and any copies that were imported would be seized by the Customs Department. Banned by the Ministry of Justice in 1959.
  • Six novels written by Mickey Spillane and five novels written by James Hadley Chase were banned by the Department of Justice with the cooperation of Associated Booksellers of New Zealand.
  • Health and Efficiency - this magazine was allowed by Customs to be imported by nudist clubs on the condition that "misuse of club copies would result in action under the Indecent Publications Act, 1910."
  • God's Little Acre - this novel by Erskine Caldwell was banned in 1933.
  • Mandingo - In late 1959 the Secretary for Justice informed the booksellers that the Justice Department considered this novel indecent. It would eventually be on the Customs Department's and the Justice Department's list of prohibited books. It was found not indecent by the IPT in 1965.
  • Borstal Boy - this Brendan Behan autobiography was banned by Customs without consultation with the Literary Advisory Committee. The book was referred to the Committee after its ban was queried by Associated Booksellers of New Zealand. By August 1959, the book was permitted for special orders and was not allowed to be displayed to the public.
  • You Can't See 'Round Corners - In January 1959, the Department of Justice informed the book's Australian publisher that it would be considered indecent in New Zealand, although the book had already been circulating in the country and stocked in public libraries for many years.
  • Lolita - this novel by Vladimir Nabokov was banned in 1955 by Customs, disregarding the Literary Advisory Committee's recommendation that it should be available for restricted sale. The decision was challenged by the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties. The High Court ruled the book indecent for having an undue emphasis on sex that would corrupt the reader. The ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal in a 2–1 decision. Lolita was found not indecent by the Indecent Publications Tribunal in 1964.
  • A Way of Love by James Courage was banned under the censorship provisions in place before the setting up of the Indecent Publications Tribunal in 1964
  • Justine - this novel by the Marquis of Sade was banned before the Indecent Publications Act 1964. In 1965 the Indecent Publications Tribunal restricted it to "psychologists, psychiatrists, and adult bona fide students of literature or philosophy".

World War I (1914-1920) period[]

During World War I, power was given to the New Zealand Defence Force and later to the Customs Department to prohibit the importation of literature that was considered undesirable, usually for being seditious. Wartime censorship of books and letters continued for many months after the end of the war.

  • Importation of any printed matter from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was prohibited by an Order in Council on 20 September 1915. This included the newspapers Direct Action and Solidarity. Sale of all IWW works was prohibited by a Gazette notice on 30 November 1917.
  • Gaelic Magazine had its importation prohibited by an Order in Council in 1917.
  • Rome's hideous guilt - this pamphlet was banned in 1919.
  • In 1920 future prime minister Walter Nash, a bookseller at the time, was arrested and fined £12 for importing Programme of the World Revolution. by Nikolai Bukharin.
  • The sale of six reference books written by John Frederick Thomas Jane was prohibited on 17 November 1915 under the War Regulations Act 1914.
  • Sale of periodicals such as International Socialist Review, The Fatherland, Issues and Events and any American newspaper written and printed in the German language was prohibited on 29 February 1926 under the War Regulations Act 1914.
  • 22 periodicals were prohibited by an Order in Council on 21 December 1916.
  • The Black Prophet by Guy Fitch Phillips and any publications containing extracts of The Black Prophet were prohibited by an Order in Council on 28 June 1918.
  • The Irish nationalist newspaper Green Ray was banned by an Order in Council on 3 July 1918. The Order also prohibited every future edition and any substitute newspaper with the same proprietor, publisher, printer, or editor.
  • Gold for Iron - this pamphlet of the Fellowship of Reconciliation was prohibited by an Order in Council on 19 July 1918.
  • The newspaper Novi Svijet, founded in May 1919 by Slavs in Auckland, was prohibited on 6 June 1919 by an Order in Council for being "injurious to the public interest in respect to the present war". It was prohibited after an open letter in Croatian had been found to be unfavourable to the National Service Regulations. The Attorney-General Francis Bell told the complainants that he had considered a prosecution, as the newspaper "contained matter calculated to excite discontent and disobedience among the Slavs [and] printed in English an article inciting treason and disloyalty in Ireland". Several months later the newspaper obtained permission to publish in English and changed its name to its English equivalent, New World. The newspaper failed to sell in this form, and applied for permission to publish half in Dalmatian. This request was refused.
  • Grey River Argus was fined £25 in 1920 for "publishing a letter from a correspondent saying it was futile to believe the capitalist class would tamely submit to being legalised out of existence".
  • War: What For? - This work by George Ross Kirkpatrick was withheld by Customs in 1920 although it had been distributed in the country previously.
  • Three pamphlets by Joseph King, Prospect and Retrospect by Phillip Snowden, two works by J.W. Newbald, The Hidden Hand in Politics by J. W. Kneeshaw, The Allies' Crime against Russia by A. W. Humphrey, Capitalist Russia and Socialist Russia by Phillips Price and Why Good Men Go Wrong in War by Richard Lee were barred by Customs from entering New Zealand in 1920.
  • Some time before May 1921, a man was sentenced to three months' hard labour for selling copies of The Communist Programme.
  • Red Europe and Money and Power by Frank Ansley were banned by the Reform Government according to Opposition MP Harry Holland.
  • The periodical Anti-Slavery Reporter by Zachary Macaulay was confiscated from pacifist Charles Mackie in November 1915, alongside a carton of 500 leaflets from the British Stop the War Committee and a batch of suffragist material.

World War II (1939-1945) period[]

Censorship of books, pamphlets, newspapers, telegraph, radio, mail, and public speech was extensive during World War II. Censorship regulations were drafted in September 1938 during the Munich Agreement and were brought into force on 1 September 1939. They established the Controller of Censorship, responsible for postal and telegraph censorship, and the Director of Publicity, responsible for press censorship. These two roles were created to prevent dissemination of prejudicial information and subversive reports.

The Controller of Censorship had the power to "cause any postal packet to be opened, detained, or delayed", and many books were detained under the Controller's direction. Books were withheld for various reasons, including interfering with the war effort, having ties to communism, and being likely to cause strong sectarian strife or bitterness. Some innocuous books were withheld if they were in the same packages as suspected books.

In correspondence between the Controller of Censorship George McNamara and the Prime Minister Peter Fraser about the communist and pacifist literature entering the country by post, McNamara said:

  • "The volume is fairly heavy and is continuous. As most of it is definitely antagonistic to British ideals and of a subversive character, it is being detained, but some may be reaching the country in larger packages as cargo. All of it is aimed at converting our people to Communism or other isms, and is definitely against the war effort."

The list of banned books was never made public during the war and was generally kept secret, to the frustration of libraries and booksellers. Reluctant to waste their already restricted budgets and risk their import licences, libraries and booksellers avoided importing books they thought might be withheld, and librarians began to remove books considered dangerous to the common good during wartime. By 1940 the number of intercepted and withheld books had become substantial. Minister of Customs Walter Nash, having been a bookseller's agent, had a special interest in books and took charge of this branch of censorship. Nash created an ad hoc committee to advise the Controller of Censorship on which books should be released, with the intention of releasing as many as possible. Throughout the war, this committee made the majority of decisions in secret about the entry of books into the country.

The Censorship and Publicity Emergency Regulations were revoked on 6 September 1945.

  • The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels was withheld and held for decision by a higher authority; still held by Customs in June 1942. It was a set book at Victoria University of Wellington in 1941, but the university's students were not allowed to access it. It was released in November 1942.
  • The Land of Socialism Today and Tomorrow: Reports and Speeches at the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), March 10–21, 1939 by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Soviet Foreign Policy: The meaning of the war in Finland by Vyacheslav Molotov were withheld and held for decision by a higher authority.
  • Questions and Answers on Communism by J. R. Campbell was withheld in 1939 or 1940 and held for decision by a higher authority in October 1940; banned in May 1941 and released in November 1942.
  • Falsehood in War-Time by Arthur Ponsonby and Truth and Mr. Chamberlain by Steven MacGregor were withheld from circulation in 1939 or 1940 and held for decision by a higher authority in October 1940; later banned in May 1941. In November 1942, the ban remained in place.
  • Works of Karl Marx and Vladmir Lenin were withheld and held for decision by a higher authority in 1939 or 1940.
  • In November 1940, works of the Jehovah's Witnesses were banned, because a month before, the Jehovah's Witnesses was declared a subversive organisation.
  • 12 books were banned until their release on August 1941.
  • Daily Worker was released after the termination of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in June 1941.
  • All publications from the British Central Board for Conscientious Objectors were banned in August 1941.
  • In June 1942, the Collector of Customs informed the Progressive Book Society of Auckland of a number of books that were being held, including Twenty Years, Industrial History in Wartime, British Trade Unionism, a short history (which had been banned by April 1941), two books by Stalin on Leninism, and five books by Lenin. Industrial History in Wartime and British Trade Unionism were released in November 1942.
  • What Will it be Like? by Richard Acland and Guide to the New World; a handbook of Constructive World Revolution by H. G. Wells were withheld from Wellington booksellers according to a 19 March 1942 House of Commons question from MP J. A. Lee.
  • All works of Lenin and Stalin were banned until their release in November 1942.
  • Two works by Pat Sloan, Political and Social Doctrines of Communism by R. Palme Dutt, British Liberty in Danger by Ronald Kidd, Hands off the Daily Worker by H. B. S. Haldane, Britain and Russia by W. Holmes and Serving my Time by Harry Politt were released in 1942 after being withheld by the Controller of Censorship.
  • C. O.'s Hansard - this work by the Central Board for Conscientious Objectors was banned for pacifism by November 1942.
  • Hawkers of Death: The Private Manufacture and Trade in Arms - This work by Phillip-Noel Baker was banned for being anti-war as it concerned private arms trading.
  • Fair Play for Servicemen and their Families, Men behind the War, Wartime Profits, The Empire & the War and Democracy for Whom? A striking Contrast: Democracy in Australia and the Soviet Union were banned for divulging the exploitation of the working class in war.
  • India's demand for freedom, Why must India fight? by V. K. Krishna Menon and What are you going to do about it? by Aldous Huxley were on the list of banned titles in November 1942.
  • No Friend of Democracy; a study of Roman Catholic Politics—their Influence on the Course of the Present War and the Growth of Fascism by Edith Moore - this book, which criticises the Roman Catholic Church for cooperating with Italian Fascists, was seized from a packet addressed to the Rationalist Association and banned in November 1942 for being "disruptive on religious grounds".
  • The literary review Tomorrow and the newspaper People's Voice were banned by the Controller of Censorship.
  • New Statesman had been seized by 1942. Eventually it was released.

Indecent Publications Tribunal (1963-1994)[]

  • The Group - although this novel by Mary McCarthy was on the Customs list of prohibited or restricted books in 1964, it had already been imported and was available in bookshops. The book was later removed from the list.
  • Washday at the Pā - this children book by Ans Westra had all of 38,000 copies were withdrawn following a campaign by the Māori Women's Welfare League that it would have a 'detrimental effect' on Māori people – and that the living conditions portrayed within the book were atypical. Before it was published editors James K. Baxter and Alistair Campbell of the School Publications expressed 'doubts about the acceptability of the photographs to Māori,' but the book was published anyway. The subsequent August 1964 order by the Minister of Education caused a controversy and all copies in schools were recalled and shredded, as were all unsold copies in the Government Bookshops chain.
  • Fanny by H. Janson, Whiplash by R. W. and Adultery in Suburbia by Matthew Bradley were Ruled indecent in 1964.
  • Two novels by Guillaume Apollinaire were ruled indecent in 1965 unless circulation was "restricted to persons professionally engaged in the study of abnormal psychology". Given an R18 classification in 1975.
  • The Jewel in the Lotus by Allen Edwardes was restricted 18 in 1966.
  • Unusual Female Sex Practices by David Oliver Cauldwell and Female Auto-Erotic Practices by Havelock Ellis were ruled indecent in 1967.
  • My Secret Life' - this memoir written by "Walter" was ruled indecent n 1968 and in 1976 except in the hands of persons over 18 years of age whose professional or academic studies extend into the field covered by the book.
  • Why Was He Born So Beautiful And Other Rugby Songs - this songbook was ruled indecent in 1968: "This is an anthology of bawdy songs, said to be popular among players of Rugby union football. Some are diverting; many are crudely indecent. The question for the Tribunal is not whether footballers should amuse themselves by bawling these songs off the field, but whether their text should be given a wider circulation in what may be called the decent licence of print; and the Tribunal decides that it should not. It is accordingly declared to be indecent."
  • Small Town Sex Today by Victor J. Banis was ruled indecent in 1968.
  • Story of Venus and Tannhauser by Aubrey Beardsley and the autobiography I, Jan Cremer were restricted 18 in 1968.
  • Two novels by Andre de Dienes were ruled indecent in 1968, while his novel Schönheit Im Bild was restricted 18 in the same year.
  • A History of Eroticism by Joseph-Marie Lo Duca was ruled indecent "except in the hands of professional students of medicine, psychology, sociology, and fine arts" in 1968.
  • The Cradle of Erotica, Satan's Saint and Ladies on Call were restricted 18 in 1968.
  • Sex and the Single Man was restricted 17 in 1968.
  • Checan - this non-fiction work by Rafael Larco Hoyle was ruled not indecent "except in the hands of persons under 18 years unless they be certified students of art, archaeology or ancient history". in 1968.
  • Walter—My Secret Life by Eberhard and Phyllis Kronhausen was restricted 18 in 1968.
  • Two works by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (Black Czarina and Venus in Furs), Woman and the Sea by Richard Tregaskis and Eros Modern' Style by éatrick Waldberg were restricted 18 in 1968.
  • Juliette by Marquis de Sade was it was ruled indecent except in the hands of bona fide students over the age of 20 years engaged in work or research in sociological and related fields.
  • Four novels were ruled indecent and while four books were restricted 18 in 1969, while My Bed is Not for Sleeping was rated 17 in the same year.
  • Sex Manners and Advanced Lovers, Sex Turned On, Community of Women, Where's Poppa?, My Carnal Confession and Master Baiter were ruled indecent in 1971.
  • Sex and the Over Forties, Erotic Fantasies, More Walter—My Secret Life, Andy Warhol's Blue Movie, As the Naked Wind from the Sea, The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart and Venus in India were restricted 18 in 1971.
  • The 120 Days of Sodom - this novel by the Marquis de Sade was ruled indecent in 1972. In 1998 it was given an R18 classification by the OFLC. It can only be displayed publicly in a sealed package with the R18 classification shown.
  • Terry Southern's Blue Movie, The Screw Reader, Abandon, Suddenly, Wonderfully Gay, Freedom to Love, 1001 Ways to Make Love, Screen were ruled indecent by IPT in 1972.
  • All-Night Visitors, Oracle of the Thousand Hands, Libido Sexualis, Love in the Open Air, The Bikers and Mind Blower were restricted 18 in 1972.
  • The Gentle Degenerates and The Saline Solution by Marco Vassi were deemed indecent in 1972.
  • Emmanuelle - this erotic novel by Emmanuelle Arsan was ruled indecent in 1973 and 1987.
  • Xaviera, Your Sex Drive and One Last Mad Embrace were ruled indecent in 1973.
  • The Live and Loves of Mr. Jiveass N****r (censored due to Fandom's terms of service), Erotic Art and A Secret Diary were restricted 18 in 1973.
  • Marijuana Grower's Guide - this instructional book by Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal had its deluxe edition ruled indecent in 1978 for "adding to the sum total of knowledge about an entirely illegal activity." The book's standard edition was ruled indecent in 1992 for being "injurious to the public good and contrary to commonly accepted standards", and in 1997 it was banned by the OFLC.
  • American Psycho - this novel by Bret Easton Ellis was was ruled indecent in the hands of persons under the age of 18 years.

in December 1991. In 2014 Auckland Council requested that the OFLC reconsider the book and it was given the same R18 classification.

  • Male Classics - this magazine's issue no. 30 and Male Classics Annual were both ruled indecent in 1964.
  • Modern Adonis - The issue no. 25 of this magazine was ruled indecent in 1964.
  • Physique Pictorial - Physique Pictorial volume 3 no. 3 was ruled indecent in 1964.
  • Fanny Hill - In 1965, an expurgated version of this erotic novel was given an R18 classification. The book was given an R18 classification in 1991.
  • Penthouse - this magazine was restricted 18 in 1972.
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn - this novel was restricted to "adults engaged in work or research in sociological and related fields" in 1967 "because it deals almost exclusively and in sickening detail with the grossest forms of evil." It was given an R18 classification in 1971 because "the importance this work has assumed in contemporary literature is such that adults should now be able to read it". In 2014 it was given an R16 classification by the OFLC because its content "is likely to injure children and younger teenagers who are still developing the concepts, knowledge and maturity needed to make sense of the material".
  • Naked Lunch was ruled indecent in 1967. In 1974 it was ruled indecent in the hands of persons under the age of 18
  • Soft Machine was given an R18 classification in 1971. It was unrestricted by the OFLC in 2014 after Auckland Council made a request for reconsideration.
  • The Wild Boys - this novel by William S. Burroughs was given an R18 classification in 1975.
  • The Story of O - this erotic novel by Pauline Réage was restricted to professional psychiatrists in 1967. The terms of its circulation was expanded in 1976 to include clinical psychologists. In 2014 it was given an R16 classification by the OFLC.
  • Psychopathia Sexualis - this medical textbook had its sale restricted restricted to persons concerned either professionally or as students with sexual abnormalities in 1967. It was given an unrestricted classification by the OFLC in 2015.
  • The Pearl was ruled indecent except in the hands of persons over the age of 18 years engaged in research relevant to the material of the book in 1969 and 1976.
  • Oh! Calcutta! - this novel was ruled indecent in 1970. The ruling applied only to the script, not to any performance of the play. Ruled not indecent in 1974.
  • Frost by Richard Amory, Roman Orgy by Marcus van Heller and A Lesbian Happening by Tony Trelos were ruled indecent in 1972.
  • The Song of the Loon was ruled indecent in 1970. It was given an R16 classification in 1993 after a request for reconsideration from the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand Trust.
  • Confessions of a Pimp - this novel by Nick G. as told to Jon Fowler was ruled indecent in 1971: "There is nothing of any substance in this worthless novel by way of characterisation or story to interfere with the simple appeal it makes to wallow in grossly offensive incidents of sexual indulgence."
  • The Goddess Game was restricted 18 in 1971.
  • Jackboot Girls by Leslie McManus was ruled indecent in 1971.
  • Bloody Mama - this novel by Robert Thorn was ruled indecent in 1971. Unrestricted by the OFLC in 2012.
  • Olympia Reader and The New Olympia Reader were ruled indecent in 1972. The latter was given an R18 classification in 1993 after a request for reconsideration from the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand Trust.
  • The Room - this novel was given an R18 classification in 1973.
  • Hello Sex by Anders and Gunilla Jorgens, The Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander and Over-exposure by Dennis William Shirley were ruled indecent in 1973.
  • Two novels written by Gordon Merrick were ruled indecent in 1973. Given an R18 classification in 1993 after a request for reconsideration from the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand Trust.
  • Inside Linda Lovelace - this autobiography of the actress Linda Lovelace was ruled indecent in 1974 and 1978.
  • White Lunch Comix No. 1 and XYZ Comics were ruled indecent in 1974.
  • The Joy of Sex this sex manual's paperback edition was given an R16 classification in 1975 and in 1978 the hardback edition was as well.
  • More Joy of Sex was given an R16 classification in 1976 and 1978. In 2014 Auckland Council requested that the OFLC reconsider the book and it was given the same R16 classification.
  • Intimate Embrace was restricted 16 in 1975.
  • Snatches and Lays by Simon Ffuckes and Sebastian Hogbotel, John and Mimi by John and Mimi Lobell and Summer Holiday Sex Manual by Tuppy Owens were ruled indecent in 1975.
  • Show Me! - The English-language edition of this sex education book was ruled indecent by the IPT in 1976. The German-language edition was classified as objectionable by the OFLC in 1996: "the book purports to be a manual for the sexual education of children, but presents children in an erotic manner".
  • Confessions of a Window Cleaner by Timothy Lea was restricted 18 in 1976.
  • Down Under the Plum Trees was restricted 18 unless instructed by parents or professional advisers. An interim restriction order was made.
  • Ancient and Modern Methods of Growing Extraordinary Marijuana, The Complete Psilocybin Mushroom Cultivator's Bible and Horney Housewife were banned in New Zealand.
  • Make it Happy: What Sex is all About and Delta of Venus were restricted 18 in 1979.
  • Xaviera's Supersex was banned in New Zealand in 1980 and 1986.
  • The Improvised Munitions Handbook by the US Department of Army, Home Workshop Guns for Defense and Resistance Volumes 1 and 2 by Bill Holmes and Bare Kills by Oscar Diaz-Cobo were banned in New Zealand by the IPT in 1983.
  • Galactic Girl - this book written by glamour model and actress Fiona Richmond was ruled indecent in 1982 for having "no honest purpose [and being] capable of corrupting persons likely to read the book". "Normally, it is possible to discern a plot in books that are referred to the Tribunal. In considering this publication, we have had considerable difficulty in trying to find any coherent story in the mass of explicit sexual descriptions that permeate this book." It was given an R18 classification in 1992: "Galactic Girl consists of a series of sexual encounters loosely strung together without benefit of plot. There is a brief description of spanking (page 86) and on page 126 there is a foiled attempt to get a robot to rape a woman, but these are passing incidents which in no way constitute the dominant effect. We accordingly classify this publication as indecent in the hands of persons under the age of 18 years."
  • A Different Love and Once I Had a Master were ruled indecent in 1985 because they "dwell on and glamorise the sexual side of homosexual relationships".
  • Men Loving Men, The Joy of Gay Sex, and Lovers were ruled indecent in 1983 because, although they were presented in a "serious restrained manner, [they] nevertheless promote and encourage homosexual activity, which is of course a criminal offence in New Zealand, thereby liable to corrupt persons who might read them." Men Loving Men kept its classification in 1988 in a 3–2 decision for not dealing with the subject of AIDS, the section on S&M, and a "very brief section on drugs as a means of enhancing sexual pleasure". All three books were ruled not indecent in 1993 after a request for reconsideration from the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand Trust.
  • Coming to Power - this book written by feminist-lesbian organisation Samois was ruled indecent in 1985: "Some of the stories are well written but many are crude and lacking in any redeeming features.
  • Parisan Frolics - this book written by Adolphe Belot was banned because its stories "had no literary features, and were little more than a camouflage for a series of explicit sexual episodes."
  • Venus School Mistress - this book by George Cannon was banned for lacking "any real historical, social, or literary merit". "At best it is a social document but we feel it lacks any real historical, social, or literary merit to declare it other than indecent. We are reinforced in this point of view by the impression that if this book was written now rather than over a century ago, the Tribunal would have little hesitation in finding it indecent."
  • Joy - this novel written by Joy Laurey was banned in 1987.
  • The World of the American Pit Bull Terrier - this non-fiction work was banned in 1991.
  • Click - this series of erotic comics by Milo Manara was banned in 1991 by the Indecent Publications Tribunal.
  • Boobytraps - this book by the US Department of Army was banned in 1991.
  • Xaviera's Magic Mushrooms was restricted 18 in 1992.
  • The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell was the last book banned by the Indecent Publications Tribunal.

Office of Film and Literature Classification (1994–present)[]

  • Diva Obsexion - this illustrated book was banned in 1996 for tending to support a theme of sadistic force against women.
  • The Great Big Narcotics Cookbook - banned for detailing the process of manufacturing and use of illegal drugs.
  • KoKoNo ToKoRo - this manga was banned for sexualising children and young persons.
  • Behind Closed Doors - this work by Alina Reyes was banned because it "tends to promote and support the exploitation of children and young persons for sexual purposes, the use of urine and excrement in association with sexual conduct, the act of bestiality, and the infliction of extreme violence."
  • The Seventh Acolyte Reader - this collection of short stories was banned in 1996. The ban was upheld by the Board of Review in 1997 and 2000. In Moonen v Film and Literature Board of Review, the 1997 classification was appealed to the High Court and then to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal rejected the appeal, but concluded that neither the High Court nor the Board of Review had given effective consideration to the Bill of Rights Act. The Court of Appeal determined that the words of the Classification Act must be given "such available meaning as impinges as little as possible on the freedom of expression". As a result of the Moonen case, the OFLC must always consider the freedom of expression set out in the Bill of Rights Act.
  • Total Abuse: Collected Writings, 1984–1995 - banned "because it promotes and supports the exploitation of children and young persons for sexual purposes; the use of violence to force persons to submit to sexual conduct; sexual conduct with a dead person; the use of urine and excrement in association with degrading, dehumanising and sexual conduct (rape, torture and abuse); bestiality; and acts of torture and the infliction of extreme violence and extreme cruelty."
  • The Giant Black Book of Computer Viruses - banned for its instructional purpose and "mischievous design": "It is clear from the way that the book is organised that the information is intended to be put to use [...] the warning on the back cover of the book is a clear invitation for irresponsible computer users to use the information."
  • Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook this photobook was banned because of "the significant extent and degree to which this book presents degrading and dehumanising images of death": "The Classification Office believes that there is likely injury to the public good in forensic photographs of this nature being widely available as entertainment."
  • David Hamilton's Private Collection - this artbook by the controversial photographer David Hamilton was banned for tending to promote or support the sexual exploitation of children and young persons.
  • Twenty Five Years of an Artist - this artbook by David Hamilton was banned for sexualizing children and young persons.
  • Holiday Snapshots - this artbook, also by David Hamilton was banned in 2000 due to depiction of nude adolescent girls. The ban was upheld by the Board of Review in 2001 and 2004.
  • Opium for the Masses - this work by Jim Hogshire was banned for explicitly detailing methods of procurement, cultivation, extraction and consumption of opium.
  • Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World - this book by Paul Stamets was banned because it "deals exclusively with the location, identification and ingestion" of controlled hallucinogenic plants.
  • The Big Book Of Buds - this book by Ed Rosenthal was banned for promoting and encouraging cultivation and use of cannabis: "The publication contains extensive information on plant varieties, articles on topics such as decriminalisation of cannabis and the history of cannabis use, and numerous high quality photographs. Although the book advised against illegal activity, the dominant effect of the publication as a whole is the promotion and encouragement of the criminal act of cultivating and using cannabis, an offence under s9 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975."
  • Advanced Techniques Of Clandestine Psychedelic & Amphetamine Manufacture - this book was banned for instructing how to clandestinely manufacture and distribute illegal drugs.
  • The Peaceful Pill Handbook - The original edition of this instructive manual on euthanasia was banned in New Zealand was banned in 2007 for dealing with "the infliction of serious physical harm", giving "instruction on how to commit and conceal criminal acts" such as drug smuggling and manufacture, and "how to conceal one's involvement with the commission of a suicide". The New Revised International Edition, which altered the original by obscuring sections of text was given an R18 classification in 2008 and must be in a sealed bag labelled with the classification: "The dominant effect of these rather obvious 'censored sections' is that the book no longer provides sufficient practical instructional detail in how to commit crime to fall within s3(3)(d) of the FVPC Act. A secondary effect is that readers are left in no doubt about the authors' opinion of New Zealand censorship law and of the Classification Office's application of it to the first version of this book. This secondary effect is, however, of no concern to the law because it is an expression of opinion." The Society for Promotion of Community Standards made a request for reconsideration in 2008, but the Board of Review did not change the R18 classification.
  • Little Sister Club 2 - this manga was banned for encouraging readers to view children and young teenagers as valid objects of sexual desire, to derive sexual pleasure from inflicting pain, and to use violence against vulnerable young people to compel participation in sexual conduct.
  • Pleasant Dripping With Sweat - this manga was banned due to encouraging readers "to view children and young persons as valid objects of sexual desire who are physically and emotionally available for sexual activity, and therefore promotes their exploitation by adults".
  • Into the River - this book was banned due to "highly offensive and gratuitous language, adult themes and graphic sexual content".
  • Natsu no Maboroshi - this doujinshi manga was banned due to "Its purpose being to sexually arouse those with a interest in children and it encourages adults to regard children as appropriate subjects for sexual fantasy."
  • Oji-san to. / With an Old Guy - this doujinshi manga was banned because "Its purpose is to sexually arouse those with a interest in young girls and it encourages adults to regard them as appropriate subjects for sexual fantasy."
  • Kokoronotokoro - this doujinshi manga was banned for encouraging adults to regard children and young persons as appropriate subjects for sexual fantasy.
  • The Great Replacement - This text, which was the manifesto of Brenton Tarrant, the man behind the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings, has been banned by the Chief Censor of New Zealand as "objectionable material".

Film censorship[]

The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) (Māori: Te Mana Whakaatu) is the government agency that is currently responsible for classification of all films, videos, publications, and some video games in New Zealand. It was created by the aforementioned Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 and is an independent Crown entity. The head of the OFLC is called the Chief Censor, maintaining a title that has described the government officer in charge of censorship in New Zealand since 1916. A "publication" is defined broadly to be any thing that shows an image, representation, sign, statement, or word. This includes films, video games, books, magazines, CDs, T-shirts, street signs, jigsaw puzzles, drink cans, and slogans on campervans.

Any person may submit any publication for classification by the Office, with the permission of the Chief Censor. However, the Secretary for Internal Affairs, the Comptroller of Customs, the Commissioner of Police, and the Film and Video Labelling Body may submit publications for classification without the Chief Censor's permission. The courts have no jurisdiction to classify publications. If the classification of a publication becomes an issue in any civil or criminal proceeding, the court must submit the publication to the Office.

Any person who is dissatisfied with a decision of the Office may have the relevant publication, but not the Office's decision, reviewed by the Film and Literature Board of Review.

The Office also has a role in providing information to the public about classification decisions and about the classification system as a whole. It conducts research and produces evidence-based resources to promote media literacy and help people to make informed choices about the content they consume.

The Office classifies material based on whether it is likely to be "harmful" or "injurious to the public good." Specifically: "a publication is objectionable if it describes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good." The Censorship Compliance Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs is responsible for the enforcement of the FVPC Act.

The Classification Office undertakes research about entertainment media content, media impacts, classification and censorship. Recent projects have investigated young New Zealanders experiences and views about sexual violence in entertainment media, and online pornography.

Films must be classified before they can be exhibited or supplied to the public. This is done either by the Film and Video Labelling Body or the Office.

Under New Zealand law, any films that has been classified already in either Australia or the United Kingdom will be classified with an NZ equivalent rating.

In 2000 the Court of Appeal of New Zealand decided in Living Word Distributors Limited v Human Rights Action Group (Wellington) [2000] NZCA 179 (a case involving two videos produced by Jeremiah Films) that the juxtaposition of the words "sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence" tends to point to activity rather than to the expression of opinion or attitude. On this interpretation, the Office had jurisdiction to restrict or ban publications describing or depicting sexual activities, but not those describing only an attitude or opinion about sex. The same interpretation required publications to describe or depict horror activities, criminal activities, cruel activities, and violent activities, rather than just an opinion or attitude about those things, for the Office to be able to classify them.

The Court of Appeal explicitly ruled that the phrase "matters such as sex" strongly indicates sexual activities not including sexual orientation, making it more difficult for the Office to restrict or ban publications that simply exploited the nudity of children or portrayed classes of people as inherently inferior, but did not show any of the specified types of activity, notwithstanding the fact the FVPC Act directs the censors to give "particular weight" to these things when deciding whether or not to restrict or ban a publication. It also made it difficult for the Office to restrict publications simply containing offensive language or to ban videos of persons taken without their knowledge or consent, such as "upskirt" videos, on the ground of invasion of privacy, again because neither type of publication shows any of the specified types of activity. In 2005, Parliament amended the FVPC Act, and commenced amendment of the Crimes Act, to restore the Office's jurisdiction over all of these matters except for publications that simply portray classes of people as inherently inferior.

Under the FVPC Act material that promotes, supports, or tends to promote or support the following is deemed objectionable (banned):

  • Sexual exploitation of children
  • Coercion
  • Extreme violence, torture, and/or cruelty
  • Bestiality
  • Necrophilia
  • Urophilia
  • Coprophilia

In 2019, the Government announced a regulatory change to bring commercial video on demand content from services like Netflix and Lightbox under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. This change, which came into force on 1 February 2022, requires major streaming services operating in New Zealand to rate content using an approved self-rating system. The Office approves these systems but they are developed and run by streaming services themselves.

Also on 1 February 2022, the Act was amended to give the Chief Censor the ability to issue urgent interim classification assessments for publications which are “likely to be objectionable”, effectively banning them temporarily. This power was used by Acting Chief Censor Rupert Ablett-Hampson to urgently assess a manifesto attributed to the perpetrator of the 2022 Buffalo, New York mass shooting, and a livestream of the attack. Both publications were later permanently banned.


The FVPC Act gives the Classification Office the power to classify publications into three categories: unrestricted, restricted, and "objectionable" or banned. Unrestricted films are assigned a green or yellow rating label. Restricted films are assigned a red classification label.

Since early 2013 some DVDs and Blu-rays released in New Zealand have had the rating label printed on the cover to prevent the removal of the label, which is illegal.

New Zealand has used a colour-coded labelling system since 1987. The colours are intended to resemble the messages conveyed by a traffic light: a green label means that nothing in the film, video or DVD should inhibit anyone from viewing it; a yellow label means proceed with caution because the film, video or DVD may have content that younger viewers should not see; and a red label means stop and ensure that no one outside the restriction views the film, video, DVD or computer game. It is an offence to supply age-restricted material to anyone under the age shown on the label.

The current classification system was introduced in 1993, harmonising the previously different standards for film and video. The following classifications are currently in use:

Rating Name Description
OFLC G label.svg G: General Suitable for general audiences. There is no language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that would upset tamariki (children).
OFLC PG label.svg PG: Parental Guidance Parental guidance recommended for younger viewers. This means unaccompanied tamariki can watch but some scenes may be scary.
OFLC M label.svg M: Mature Suitable for (but not restricted to) mature audiences 16 years and older. Said films can be can be sold, hired, or shown to anyone but they are are more suitable for mature audiences. It’s a good idea to read the content warning.
OFLC RP13 label.svg RP13 Restricted to people 13 years of age and over, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian
OFLC RP16 label.svg RP16 Restricted to people 16 years of age and over, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
OFLC RP18 label.svg RP18 Restricted to people 18 years of age and over, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
OFLC R13 label.svg R13 Restricted to people 13 years of age and over.
OFLC R15 label.svg R15 Restricted to people 15 years of age and over.
OFLC R16 label.svg R16 Restricted to people 16 years of age and over.
OFLC R18 label.svg R18 Restricted to people 18 years of age and over.
OLFC Restricted Restricted Restricted to a particular class of people, or for particular purposes, or both, specified by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

The RP18 rating is the most recent rating, having been created in April 2017 specifically for the drama series 13 Reasons Why.

The Film and Video Labelling Body may award films, videos and DVDs an unrestricted classification of (G, PG or M) based on their Australian classification, or British classification if no Australian classification exists. The Office is the only body who may award restricted ratings.

Instances of film censorship[]

  • Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom - this film was banned on its initial release in 1975, but lifted in 1992.
  • Last Tango in Paris, Faces of Death and Andy Warhol's Bad were also banned on their initial release.
  • Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle - this film was banned due to content that would be contrary to public decency and undesirable to public interest. The film is still banned to this day.
  • Fritz the Cat - this animated film by Ralph Bakshi was banned for its transgressive content, including violence, drugs, profanity and sexual content. As if all of this wasn't bad enough on its own, having it in an animated cartoon with antropomorphic cats probably didn't go over well at all.
  • Histoire d'O - this film was banned between 1978 and 2003; later, it was reclassified as R18.[1]
  • Cannibal Holocaust - banned in 1980 and refused release in 2006 due to its extremely violent content and actual on-screen killings of animals.
  • Mad Max - This film was initially banned in 1979 by the Chief Censor due to "violence and anti-social behaviour" as well to general portrayal of gangs (which are still an issue in New Zealand) and violence for four years, which meant that was shown later than its sequel, The Road Warrior, due to sensivities (according to submissions from the Police and the Ministry of Maori Affairs) over a real-life gang incident not long before the film came out, where "rampaging youths" burned a police officer in a car the previous year, which supposedly bore "an uncanny resemblance" to the "Well, his goose is cooked" scene, in which Jim Goose (Max Rockatansky's police partner), is burned to death inside of his ute by the Toecutter's gang. However, in 1983, after the success of The Road Warrior, the first film was unbanned and rated R18.
  • Love Camp 7 - although this women-in-prison nazispoitation B-movie had an edited VHS classified R18, the unedited DVD version was banned in 2005 for "exploit[ing] the nudity of women and present[ing] real and tragic events in a flippant and offensive way."
  • Vase de Noces - banned due to "promoting and supporting bestiality". As of 2017, it is still banned.
  • Hostel: Part II - banned in 2007 due to one scene that "fuses an act of extreme violence with sexual gratification". This scene's inclusion led to the film being classified as objectionable under s3(2)(f) of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 on the grounds that it "tend[s] to promote and support acts of torture and the infliction of extreme violence and extreme cruelty", thus making it illegal for the film to be displayed publicly. Sony Pictures initially refused to remove the scene. However, on 29 January 2008, after the scene was excised, the film was rated R18 for "torture and sadistic violence".
  • Megan Is Missing - banned due to its sexual violence involving young people.
  • The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) - banned due to its gore, violence and sexually explicit content.
  • A Serbian Film - banned in 2012 due to its depictions of extreme violence, offensive depictions of sexual violence, pedophilia, necrophilia and/or content considered offensive and abhorrent.
  • The remake of Maniac!, which starred Elijah Wood, was banned due to its filming of the murders from the killer's point of view. which the OFLC claimed was "potentially dangerous in the hands of the wrong person", feeling that "the tacit invitation to enjoy cruel and violent behavior through its first-person portrayal and packaging as entertainment is likely to lead to an erosion of empathy for some viewers.
  • Bloody Mama - this film was banned in the country at one point due to high levels of violence. Its novelisation was also banned, and the ban was not lifted until 2012, more than four decades after its release.
  • Andy Warhol Is Bad - this film was banned during its initial release.
  • I Spit on Your Grave (2010) - banned because "it tends to promote and support the use of violence to compel any person to submit to sexual contact".
  • Cat Sick Blues - banned due to a scene depicting a woman being orally raped to death. The distributor refused to remove the scene from the film.
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - the uncut version of this film was initially banned in New Zealand for its graphic violence. However, the ban was lifted by the end of the 2000s.
  • Hotel Mumbai - this film was withdrawn from New Zealand theatres for 2 weeks in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Internet censorship[]

While there are many types of objectionable content under New Zealand law, the filter specifically targets content that depicts the sexual abuse or exploitation of children and young persons. The Department of Internal Affairs runs the filtering system, which is dubbed the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System (DCEFS). It is voluntary for internet service providers (ISPs) to join.

  • 4chan, 8chan, LiveLeak, and Kiwi Farms were banned due to disseminating footage of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Television censorship[]


The Broadcasting Standards Authority (Maori: Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho) covers radio and TV in New Zealand; their classification system is closely modelled on that used in Australia. The standards can be read here.

On 1 May 2020, New Zealand realigned its television content rating system to a common system for free-to-air television, subscription television and on-demand services:

  • G: Approved for general viewing (this was unchanged from the previous rating system).
  • PG: Parental Guidance recommended for younger viewers (previously known as PGR, Parental Guidance Recommended).
  • M: Suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over.
  • 16: People under 16 years should not view.
  • 18: People under 18 years should not view.

The last three ratings replaced the former AO (Adults Only) classification.

Unlike most countries where the watershed is 9:00pm; New Zealand’s watershed time is half an hour early. On free-to-air television, programmes classified M can be broadcast between 9.00am and 3.00pm on weekdays (school term time only, as designated by the Ministry of Education) and from 7.30pm until 5.00am on a daily basis. Programmes classified 16 can only be broadcast after the 8.30pm watershed, while programmes classified 18 can only be broadcast after 9.30pm.

On pay television, where content filtering is not available, programmes classified 18 can only be broadcast between 8.00pm and 6.00am on a daily basis and from 9.00am until 3.00pm on weekdays (school term time only). If content filtering is available, programmes classified 18 can be broadcast at any time. Explicit adult sex programmes classified 18 may screen only on premium channels.

Howeve due to cultural differences, New Zealand Broadcasting laws are fairly liberal but often balanced (that is, not too harsh or too soft).

The following descriptor codes (audience advisories) may be added for programmes classified PG or higher:

  • C: Content may offend
  • L: Language may offend
  • V: Contains violence
  • S: Sexual content may offend

Ratings in the Cook Islands[]

In the Cook Islands, a state in free association with New Zealand, publications such as films, TV shows and video games are classified by the Cook Islands Censorship Office in accordance with the Film and Censorship Act 1985. The following four classifications are used:

  • G (general)
  • PG (parental guidance)
  • MA (mature audiences)
  • R18 (restricted to adults)

The Censorship Office does not define the age for a "mature audience", but its television code—which uses the same ratings—defines a child as "15 years and under".


Advertisings are policed by the Advertising Standards Authority and the Commercials Approvals Bureau (to not be confused with the Citizens Advice Bureau as the CAB as the abbreviation), with the latter being the local body which approves adverts for screening on New Zealand Television. In 2007, the ASA deemed a Burger King ad featuring scantily-clad bikini ladies as "sexually exploitative", thus, never allowing it to be shown on NZ television. A similar situation in 2013, where Carl Jr's got into hot water with their racy advert deemed as "sexually exploitative". However, the burger chain lambasted the decision as "puritanical".

Instances of television censorship[]

  • The Simpsons - All the scenes showing Itchy and Scratchy cartoons were cut on TVNZ.
  • Ishuzoku Reviewers - this fantasy sex comedy anime had its streaming delayed in New Zealand due to "adjusting [its] sources of materials".
  • Puni Puni Moemy - this OAV anime, sequel of Excel Saga, was classified as "objectional material" on the grounds that it "tends to promote and support the exploitation of children and young persons for sexual purposes, and to a lesser extent, the use of sexual coercion to compel persons to submit to sexual conduct", and for high-impact violence and cruelty. However, the OFLC reconsidered the series and classified it R16[2].
  • Invader Zim - the writers of this animated series backmasked the word "fuck", as Invader Zim is (nominally) aimed at children and rated PG, this sort of "offensive language" is not allowed under section 3b of the Pay Television Code.
  • High School DxD - the anime adaptation of this manga was initially refused classification as the OFLC stated in their report publications were banned if containing what the board felt was "to reinforce the notion that young persons are sexually desirable and available". However, the OFLC reconsidered the series in 2022 and it was classified as R16 .
  • Shortland Street:
    • A scene from an early October 2009 episode which involved a character returning from Samoa boasting of sunshine and drinking was reshot due to the Samoan earthquake and tsunami occurring at that time.
    • However, the 20th anniversary feature-length episode, where a helicopter crash was shot, was aired with a content warning before its start, due to a fatal helicopter crash occurring in the South Island hours before the episode's scheduled air time and pulling the episode would have caused huge disruption.
  • Maken-ki! - the second season of this anime was banned in New Zealand due to what the rating described as a "loose narrative" used as a vehicle for sexual exploitation of minors.
  • Power Rangers - After the first season, this show was banned from television due to complaints from parents whose children were injured themselves trying to emulate the show's fight scenes. Interestingly enough, the seasons from Ninja Storm onward were filmed in New Zealand, with local actors and actresses. By the time of Power Rangers Samurai, the ban on the show has been lifted since.
  • Ikki Tousen: Dragon Destiny - this anime is banned due to the series' violent and sexual scenes. Due to the reaction from New Zealand film authorities, distributor Madman Entertainment chose not to release the remaining volumes there.
  • The Bridge - this documentary is banned in New Zealand due to objectionable content (in this case, the film is about, and shows scenes, of people jumping from the Golden Bridge as a method of suicide). In 2015, The Bridge was removed from Netflix service in New Zealand by request of the New Zealand Film and Video Labelling Body.

Video game censorship[]

In New Zealand, games are classified by the country's Office of Film and Literature Classification, with the same rating system for films (see above). If they are dubbed "objectionable" in all cases, they are banned. In this case, the game in question is not only illegal to sell, but also to own, possess, or import. Games are typically banned and classified as "objectionable content" when they contain extreme violence, offensive depictions of cruelty, animal cruelty, sexual content involving minors, or graphic depictions of sexual content, including sexual fetishes that are "revolting or abhorrent" (such as depictions of urination, bestiality, necrophilia, urophilia, coprophilia, and/or incest).

Video games do not require New Zealand labels (which only applies to unrestricted "G", "PG" or "M" rating) but they are bound by the same criteria for all media required under New Zealand's Classification law to be given a label, which means that Australian ratings will be used by default if unrestricted. However, games with restricted rating are required to have a red New Zealand classification label and assigned a specific age restriction (R13, R15, R16 and R18). Depite being a small but limited market, some video games censored in Australia can have an impact on New Zealand (at least for marketing and distribution purposes). For instance, in 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV was released with an R18 certificate despite being censored in Australia with an MA15+ rating (at the time, Australia did not have an Adult 18+ rating for video games). However, a 21 year-old managed to get the uncensored version intact.

Instances of video game censorship[]

  • Manhunt - banned in New Zealand by the OFLC due to being "excessive gory". However in 2023 the OFLC reconsidered the game and was classified as R18.
  • Postal 2 - banned by the OLFC due to "extreme gore", as well "Gross, abhorrent content: Urination, High Impact Violence, Animal Cruelty, Homophobia, Racial, and Ethnic Stereotypes”
  • Gal*Gun: Double Peace - banned on account the sexual exploitation of young persons and the use of coercion to compel someone to submit to sexual contact.
  • RapeLay - banned because it "tends to promote and support the use of violence to compel a person to submit to sexual conduct, and the exploitation of young persons for sexual purposes".
  • Reservoir Dogs - banned because it "tends to promote and support the infliction of extreme violence and extreme cruelty for the purpose of entertainment".
  • Criminal Girls: Invite Only - banned because of sexual content that focuses on young persons and elements of sexual violence.
  • Three Sisters' Story - banned because it "tends to promote and support the use of violence to compel a person to submit to sexual conduct, and the exploitation of young persons for sexual purposes"
  • Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkuni - banned because it "tends to promote and support incest between the two lead focal sisters, and the exploitation of young persons for sexual purposes".

Other censorship[]

On 9 February 2012, unusually, a drink can was classified by the New Zealand Classification Office. The can in question was of an energy drink called "Miss Svenson's Classroom Detention". It contains images of sexualised caricatures of a disciplinarian, Swedish schoolmistress wearing a skimpy school uniform and using sexual innuendo. It may be considered degrading to teachers and Swedes. Nevertheless, the drink can's availability is unrestricted.

In 2016 and 2017, several Wicked Camper vans in New Zealand were classified as publications. Some of them were classified "objectionable", making them illegal to bring them out and about on the road.


External links[]