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Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993/Amendment Act 2015 

New Zealand's classification regime is governed by the  Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, which was amended by the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Amendment Act 2015 (the Act). 

Among other things, the Act introduces a number of significant changes to the enforcement provisions of the principal Act in relation to objectionable publications, images and other such material. 

Under the Act: 

  • The penalty for a person who knowingly trades, distributes or makes objectionable materials is a term of imprisonment not exceeding 14 years. 
  • The penalty for knowingly possessing objectionable materials is either a term of imprisonment not exceeding ten years or a fine of up to $50,000. 
  • Inspectors of Publications can apply for production orders and warrants, including search warrants, for suspected offences against the Act including the possession, distribution and creation of objectionable material. 

The Classification Office 

The Classification Office is an independent Crown entity established under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. 

The Classification Office has two primary functions: 

  • To classify publications such as films, books or computer files which may need to be restricted or banned 
  • To provide information about classification decisions and about the classification system as a whole 

Glossary of terms used in the Act 

The following is a definition of terms used in the Films, Videos and Publication Classification Act 1993. 


A publication essentially refers to any visual or written content in any format both physical or digital. For a more detailed definition, please refer to section 2 of the Act. 


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. Section 3 of the Act clearly defines how a publication can be classified as objectionable. 


Material that is classified as restricted should only be made available to people who are over a certain age. More information about restricted material is available from the Classification office: New Zealand's classification labels. 


As defined, in section 2 of the Act, a "film" means a cinematograph film, a video recording, and any other material record of visual moving images that is capable of being used for the subsequent display of those images; and includes any part of any film, and any copy or part of a copy of the whole or any part of a film.