Objectionable and restricted material

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The Department of Internal Affairs’ take a proactive role to investigate the trade of objectionable and restricted material in New Zealand. If a publication is categorised as ‘objectionable’ it is automatically banned under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 (The Act).

What is 'objectionable' and 'restricted' material?


The Act defines a publication as objectionable (banned) 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.
When determining whether a publication should be categorised as objectionable consideration is given to the extent to which the material:

a) Describes, depicts, or deals with:

I. acts of torture, extreme violence or cruelty
II. sexual violence or sexual coercion
III. dehumanising sexual or physical conduct
IV. sexual exploitation of minors

b) Exploits the nudity of minor;
c Degrades any person;
d) Promotes criminal acts or acts of terrorism; or
e) Represents any particular class of the public as inherently inferior as a result of a characteristic of members of that class being a characteristic that is a prohibited ground of discrimination specified in the Human Rights Act 1993.


Restricted material refers to publications that are only available to people who are over a certain age such as R18 or Adult material.

It is illegal to sell, hire, show or give material with a restricted label to anyone under the age specified on the label. Anybody who knowingly supplies, distributes, exhibits or displays a restricted publication to any person who does not meet the age criteria is committing an offence and can receive up to three months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $10,000.

Examples of offences that could occur include but are not limited to:

  • a video outlet renting a restricted DVD to an underage child; or
  • a parent supplying an R18 computer game to an underage child; or
  • an adult sending sexually explicit text or images to a person under 18.

For more information on classification, see Film and video classification.

What are the penalties for possessing or trading in objectionable material?

Anybody found “knowingly” in possession of objectionable material can receive a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

Anybody who knowingly makes or knowingly trades, distributes, or displays an objectionable publication via the Internet can receive a maximum of 14 years imprisonment. A body corporate can be fined up to $200,000.

What should I do if I find something objectionable by accident?

The Department investigates and prosecutes people who deliberately collect objectionable material and find ways to distribute it to other people via the Internet.

Occasionally, the nature of the Internet can lead to somebody viewing objectionable material by accident. If this happens to you, leave the site immediately.

If you have recorded the name of the site you can fill in our online Content Complaint Form or notify the Department's Digital Child Exploitation Team.

Content Complaint Form