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History of censorship

Pre 1900s

1896

First film screening in New Zealand.

The first public film screening in New Zealand was in Auckland on October 13, 1896. Professors Hausmann and Gow introduced 'Edison's latest marvel, the Kinematograph', with which they showed a programme of short films – the first public film projection in New Zealand.

Read more about the first film screening

1900-1919

1908

Is the Bard blue? newspaper headlinesLawyer takes Shakespeare to court to make a legal point.

Read more about this challenge to censorship law

1915

Conference calls for Government film censorship.

Read more about the introduction of film censorship in New Zealand

1920-1949

1926

The Butcher Shop book coverNovel The Butcher Shop about life in New Zealand banned.

Read more about why this book was banned

1930

All Quiet on the Western Front classification form

Talkies revolution leads to record numbers of films being banned.


Controversy over banning of All Quiet on the Western Front.

Read more about All Quiet On The Western Front

1939

War censorship

Extensive wartime censorship introduced. Censorship during the war extended to all aspects of information: newsreels and newspapers were censored as well as mail sent to troops and by troops. Teams of translators were employed to read any mail addressed to or sent by foreigners living in New Zealand.

See an example of wartime censorship

1943

Love on the Dole poster

Government intervenes over banning of the film Love on the Dole. New appeal board appointed which passes it.

Read more about Love On The Dole

1950s, 1960s and 1970s

1951

Banned strike leaflet

Political censorship during waterfront strike.

Read more about one of the harshest times in our censorship history

1954

The Wild One poster

The Wild One banned (banned 5 times before being classified as R16 in 1977).


Teenage sex revelations lead to Mazengarb Enquiry and tougher laws which allow the banning of comics and 'pulp' literature.

Read more about the banning of The Wild One and the comic scare of the 1950s

1955

Rebel Without a Cause poster

Rebel Without a Cause passed on appeal.

Read more about the classification history of Rebel Without a Cause

1960

Lolita book cover

Nabokov's novel Lolita found indecent by Court of Appeal.

Read more about controversial book Lolita

1961

Television comes to New Zealand and the Broadcasting Act sets standards for TV and radio.

The Crimes Act outlaws 'indecent' performances.

Read more about the standards for television and the Crimes Act

1963

Indecent Publications Act sets up Indecent Publications Tribunal (IPT) and redefines 'indecency'.

Read more about the IPT

1967

Segregated Ulysses audience

The film Ulysses is classified R18 but men and women were not allowed to sit together.

Read more about this unusual classification decision

1970

Patricia Bartlett

Patricia Bartlett forms the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards, a group which still exists today. Patricia Bartlett campaigned for stricter censorship of theatre, film and sexually explicit material. She was opposed to teenagers having access to sex-education material and the Homosexual Law Reform Bill.


The Little Red School-Book cover

The Little Red School-Book found not indecent after much controversy.

Read more about The Little Red School-Book

1972

Germaine Greer convicted for saying 'bullshit'.

Read more about what happened


Musical Hair acquitted of obscenity charge.


A Clockwork Orange poster

Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange is classified R20 by the film censor despite public protest. The classification was lowered to R18 in 1984. The classification of the film and DVD is still 'R18: contains violence'.

1980s and 1990s

1980

Life of Brian poster

Monty Python's Life of Brian is classified as R16 by Chief Censor of Films. This decision is hugely controversial with many people calling for the film to be banned.

Read more about the controversy surrounding Life of Brian

1987

Video Recordings Act sets up the Video Recordings Authority (VRA) to censor restricted and banned level videos intended for home use. Unrestricted level material to be cross-rated from Australia by the new Video Labelling Body.

Read more about the VRA


Establishment of the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry into Pornography announced. The Committee's report is released in 1989 and leads to an overhaul of the censorship system.

1989

Ministerial Committee of Inquiry into Pornography releases a report recommending reform of the censorship system (this led to the classification law we have today).

Read more about the report which led to a change in the censorship system

1996

K Road billboard

OFLC classifies four billboards on Karangahape Road in Auckland after they are 'submitted' by a member of the public. The OFLC consults with the City Council, the shop owners, Auckland Girls' Grammar School, and the Auckland Bus Company before making a decision that all of the billboards are objectionable (banned). The owners of two of the billboards appealed the decision.

Read more about the classification of the K-Road billboards

1999

Bill Hastings appointed Chief Censor.


Key court case: Moonen v Film and Literature Board of Review

Read more about this court case which changed the way the classification law is applied

2000 to today

2000

Key court case: Living Word Distributors v Human Rights Action Group (Wellington)

Read more about this court case which led to changes in the classification legislation

2005

Mihi book cover

The book Mihi: Collected Poems is classified as unrestricted after it is submitted by a member of the public concerned about sexual portrayals in the book.

Read more about Mihi


Amendments to the Classification Act expand the definition of 'objectionable' to ensure nude pictures of children and young persons are included; allows restriction for highly offensive language and dangerous imitable conduct; and increases penalties for possession and distribution of objectionable publications. Many of these amendments are as a result of the Living Word case in 2000.


Underage Gaming Research Report commissioned by OFLC.

Read about the Underage Gaming Research Report on the main OFLC website

2010

Chief Censor Bill Hastings resigns his position to become a District Court Judge. Bill Hastings was Chief Censor for 11 years and replaced Kathryn Paterson.

Read more about Bill Hastings' time as Chief Censor