Board lifts ban on Into the River

Board lifts ban on Into the River

Award-winning book Into the River will be back on shelves after an interim ban on it was lifted today; however, it was not a unanimous decision.

Library and bookshop shelves across the country were stripped of the teen novel after an interim ban was placed on it for explicit content.

The book, written by Ted Dawe, won the 2013 NZ Post Children's Book Awards.

Last month, the coming-of-age novel was given the interim ban by the Film and Literature Board of Review following a request by Family First.

The book was initially released with stickers warning of explicit content, but without any age restriction. The board later changed it to R14, but last month the chief censor removed the restriction, as well as the requirement it carry a sticker warning.

After receiving complaints from Family First, the board announced Into the River would be banned until a final decision could be made, saying the censor may have unlawfully removed the board's restrictions.

But in a decision released today, the board says the book's cover contained a warning of the explicit material in the book that was "appropriate and useful".

"There is no doubt that there will be many parents who would prefer that their children were not exposed to such material and the warning is a helpful way of assisting them."

The book was not deemed to promote or support the activities it describes, the board says, and actually portrays them in a negative light.

But the board's president, Dr Don Mathieson, disagreed with the majority decision, saying an age restriction of R18 should be put on the book, or at least R14.

He said while he agreed with much of the decision, he sided with Family First when it said the issue of bullying could be dealt with without "gratuitous and offensive descriptions of sexual encounters involving children and adults, sexual grooming, rape, the normalisation of drug use".

National director Bob McCoskrie said the book was "laced with detailed descriptions of sex acts, coarse language and scenes of drug-taking".

"It has sexually explicit material and it's a book that's got the C-word nine times, the F-word 17 times and s-h-i-t 16 times [sic]," the group said on its website at the time.

Mr McCoskrie says the group is disappointed in the board's decision, saying it "kowtowed" to pressure from the book industry.

"A dangerous precedent has been set and parents will now feel disempowered and that their concerns will be ignored regarding similar books, which they may not want their young teenagers and pre-teens to be reading."

The book's publisher Penguin Random House says the decision is a victory for freedom of speech.

More than 50 submissions and emails were made in support of the book.

Managing director Margaret Thompson says the company is delighted the book's intended audience will not be able to access the book freely. 

The book recounts a fictional tale of a boy of Maori and Spanish descent who is born and raised in an East Coast village in New Zealand.

Te Arepa Santos wins a scholarship to a prestigious boys' boarding school in Auckland and the story revolves around his first two years at the school.

Into the River Final Majority Decision

Into the River Final Dissenting Decision by 3NewsNZ

3 News