New Zealand lifts ban on award-winning teen book

WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand censors on Wednesday (Oct 14) overturned the country's first book ban for more than two decades, ruling an award-winning teen novel could go on sale with no restrictions.

The book, "Into the River" by Ted Dawe, was ordered off shelves last month after conservative lobby group Family First complained about depictions of sex and drug use.

The decision, which prompted outrage from Dawe and other New Zealand authors, meant selling the book could attract fines of up to NZ$3,000 (S$2,786) for individuals and NZ$10,000 for companies.

It was the first ban of its type in liberal-leaning New Zealand since current legislation was introduced in 1993.

But in a decision published Wednesday, the Film and Literature Board of Review said it was allowing sale of the coming-of-age tale about a Maori boy at an exclusive boarding school.

"The board considers the book is likely to raise for debate and discussion a number of important issues and problems that many young teenagers will have to confront as they grow up," it said.

Dawe, whose novel won the New Zealand Post children's book of the year in 2013, welcomed the decision.

"I am thrilled. It has restored my faith in New Zealand's legal system," he said.

The book's publisher Penguin Random House said it was "a victory for freedom of expression and the right of authors and publishers to deal with the challenging social issues young people face today in high-quality works of literature".