Censorship by the Customs Department has long been applied to books entering New Zealand, and this has stopped a number of books from entering the country. It must be said that this power has been exercised with more discretion than in Australia, though an early advisory committee, on which booksellers were represented, seems to have been less tolerant in the twenties.
Decisions of the Customs Department were for a number of years reviewed by a non-governmental Advisory Committee and were subject to an appeal to the Courts; but few cases were in fact brought before them. A notable exception was Lolita, which was declared indecent first by the Supreme Court and then by a majority in the Court of Appeal in 1960. In 1963 the Indecent Publications Act of 1910 was replaced by new legislation. Much public and particularly newspaper objection was made to the setting up of a tribunal to determine indecency and specially to the power conferred on it to supress publication of its proceedings in the newspapers (and indeed of the name of the book concerned) unless “a difficult or important question” was being considered. The more liberal tone of the new legislation therefore escaped notice, perhaps fortunately for the cause of freedom. Every decision of the tribunal must be published in the New Zealand Gazette. (NOTE—On 11 August 1964, by a majority decision and without qualification, the tribunal found Lolita was “not indecent”. The chairman, Mr Justice A. P. Blair, dissenting, expressed the opinion that the book should be made available to persons over the age of 18 years. Ed.)