Interest in reading a controversial book has risen in Rotorua after it was slapped with an interim ban.

Award-winning young adult novel, Into the River by Ted Dawe has been pulled from shelves at Rotorua District Library and local bookstores after an order by the Film and Literature Board of Review.

The move comes following a complaint from the conservative lobby group Family First which reportedly objected to the novel's sexually explicit content, drug use and use of slang for female genitalia.

The interim ban of sale and supply of the 2013 book is the first in the 22-year-history of the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993.


The year it was released, it won the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy award.

According to the Film Literature Board of Review website, the interim restriction means no one can distribute or exhibit the book - if the order is breached, individuals face a fine of $3000 and companies $10,000.

Atlantis Bookshop owner Fraser Newman said he had people ringing up asking for the book. The Eruera St shop had one second-hand copy in stock, which Mr Fraser has since put into storage.

"We've had about half a dozen phone calls. There's nothing like a ban to make people want to read it.

"There are thousands of books with worse content than that and my personal opinion is that the ban is silly. They shouldn't be doing it, it seems unilateral, they had a process, went through that process but the personal opinion of the conservative review board chair has overridden it."

The controversial book
The controversial book

Mr Fraser said young adults were already exposed to the themes featured in Into the River from other novels which are still freely available. He said popular series, The Hunger Games was about a group of teenagers being stuck in an arena, forced to kill each other.

"Young adults read all sorts of things, they are very wide readers so this won't stop them. This is a religious-driven crusade. I started reading it yesterday and found it sort of boring."

Rotorua Library director Jane Gilbert said they had withdrawn the only copy of the novel from circulation. Since it first hit their shelves in 2013 it has been borrowed 13 times.


"The New Zealand Classification Authority informed us yesterday morning of the ban.We had a notification that something was brewing earlier in the week and that is when we took it off the shelf," Mrs Gilbert said.

"There's been a few titles challenged around the world - but there have never been any since the 60s."

McLeods Booksellers Rotorua staff member Peter McKellar said they previously stocked the book but had sold out before the ban.

"We had 28 books instore and sold them all between 2013 and the last one sold in January." He added: "I'm sure it's going to be more in demand now."

Into the River timeline:

* June 2013: Into the River wins top prize in NZ Post Children's Book Awards

* July: Internal Affairs Department submits it to the censor after complaints from the public

* September: Censor classifies it M (unrestricted) with "contains sex scenes, offensive language and drug use"

* December: Review board partially upholds Family First appeal and imposes R14 restriction.

* March 2015: Auckland Libraries asks the censor to reconsider the classification

* August 14: Censor reclassifies the book "unrestricted"with no descriptive note

* August 18: Family First appeals to review board again

* September 3: Review board president bans book until full board decision