New Zealand does not currently have an age verification system in place to restrict access to pornography or other adult material online.
However, the New Zealand government recognises that young people’s access to online pornography is an issue. Following research undertaken by the New Zealand Classification Office, in 2019 steps were taken to address this. Age verification was not the first option pursued by the Government. Instead work commenced on the possibility of an ‘opt-out’ filter being mandated to block pornography on home internet connections. However, this proposal did not gain cross-party support for various reasons and did not progress.
Content Regulation Review
The New Zealand government has now announced a content regulation review. This is broad in scope and could encompass consideration of age verification requirements. The Classification Office will be drawing on the research it conducted to inform progress towards a better, more effective set of regulatory approaches that can achieve a better balance between a New Zealander’s rights of access to content, with the need to support young people and protect children.
There appears to be significant support for the idea that a better balance needs to be achieved. The Classification Office conducted research with 14 to 17-year-olds. It found that young New Zealanders think there should be limits on access to pornography. Young people overwhelmingly agreed (89%) that it isn’t ok for children younger than 14 to look at pornography. While most (71%) believe children and teens’ access to online pornography should be restricted in some way.
Pending that broad review, there has been significant progress in other areas. The public information campaign featuring “porn actors” helped raise awareness and attention to the issues. The New Zealand school curriculum guidelines on relationships and sexuality education now include information about pornography. The New Zealand Classification Office is currently working with the Ministry of Education on professional development materials to help equip teachers to engage with the topic.