2 Oct 2015

Banned NZ book's fate to be decided

6:00 am on 2 October 2015

Whether New Zealand's first banned book in 20 years remains off-limits to teenagers could be decided today.

The book's author, Ted Dawe

Author Ted Dawe said he hoped the board would put no restrictions in place but he believed it would settle on R14. Photo: Supplied

No one has been able to buy, borrow or display Ted Dawe's Into the River for three and a half weeks, after Christian lobby group Family First complained about the content's sex scenes, drug use and swearing.

Into the River book cover

Photo: Ted Dawe/Penguin Random House

The Board of Film and Literature Review will meet behind closed doors this afternoon to hear submissions from libraries, authors and bookseller groups, as well as from Family First.

It will then vote on whether to place an age restriction of either 14 or 18, or no restriction at all.

If the board can not reach a majority then the president, Don Mathieson, will decide.

Mr Dawe said, while he wanted the book to be unrestricted, he believed it would end up back as R14.

"I would like to think that they would enter it with fresh minds and fresh hearts and they'd look at it and see the New Zealand judicial system has been compromised by this and, along with it, aspects of our BIll of Rights.

"However, I'm not confident about that. It's the same group of people talking about the same book, and I think they'll come to the same decision."

Family First maintained that an R18 label would be most appropriate but said it would be satisfied with an R14 restriction.

The group's national director, Bob McCoskrie, said the book contained references to illicit drugs, sexual grooming of young people and offensive language.

He also wanted an investigation into the then-deputy chief censor, who made the call to remove the R14 restriction in the first place, and criticised current chief censor Dr Andrew Jack for continuing to support the book being free of an age restriction.

"The censor is guilty of minimising a number of harmful themes in the book, including sexual activity and sexual grooming between children and adults, the normalising of illicit drug-taking, exposure to pedophile, and playing down the activity of distributing naked images of young boys.

"The normalisation of illegal acts when directed towards young readers is unconscionable."

The Department of Internal Affairs said the board might not reach a decision today, and could take weeks to release its final decision.

In the meantime, the interim restriction remains in place, and anyone caught lending Into the River to another person faces a fine of $3000 - even if they do not know about the ban.

Other submitters have included the School Library Association, the Wellington City, Auckland and Hastings Libraries, the Book Council, and the Classification Office.