Censor's office backs ban on offensive Wicked Campers designs

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff.co.nz

Wellingtonians share their thoughts on Wicked Campervan slogans.

Three of Wicked Campers' most offensive vehicles have been banned from New Zealand's roads, following a landmark ruling.

In a ruling from the Classification Office - the first time it has made a decision about a vehicle -  the organisation ruled that slogans on three of the controversial Australian company's vehicles qualify were "objectionable publications".

The ruling means that the vans are banned from public places in New Zealand with immediate effect, and Wicked could face a fine of up to $200,000 per offence if it continued to use them.

One of the Wicked Campers vehicles that has created a public outrage for its offensive design.
FAIRFAX NZ

One of the Wicked Campers vehicles that has created a public outrage for its offensive design.

The banned vehicles depict a cartoon of the Cat in the Hat with drug paraphernalia, Snow White about to snort cocaine and Shaggy and Scooby Doo about to smoke marijuana.

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Police had complained to the censor's office about the offensive images and slogans on Wicked's vehicles, asking for a ruling on whether they could be classified as an "objectionable publication".

In a statement, Associate Tourism Minister Paula Bennett - who has spearheaded a campaign against Wicked - said the decision was "a real victory for everyone that has seen the vans and been offended by the awful slogans and images on them".

"This will send a clear message to Wicked Campers that their offensive slogans are not welcome here and it's time they cleaned up their act."

Associate Tourism Minister Paula Bennett has been one of the biggest critics of Wicked Campers.
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Associate Tourism Minister Paula Bennett has been one of the biggest critics of Wicked Campers.

Bennett said she could take a joke, but vans that promoted drug use and sexual violence "totally overstep the mark".

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NZ Police's acting national manager for crime, Detective Superintendent Tim Anderson, said the ruling meant police "now have a number of options available to us which we will be reviewing", including penalties for those who drive the vehicles. 

'SERIOUS IMPACTS ON HEALTH OF CHILDREN'

In its ruling, the Classification Office says the "size and colourful nature" of the images on the vans - including a depiction of Snow White using cocaine - means they would attract the attention of children and young teenagers.

Drug use as promoted on the vans would have "serious short and long term harmful impacts on the psychological and physical health of children", the ruling said.

While there was "a certain tolerance" for the depiction of drug use in films and DVDs, their viewing could be controlled, while the Wicked vans "cannot be easily covered, or displayed only in restricted areas or to select persons".

The Classification Office said it considered an R16 classification, but it would have been too difficult to enforce for a vehicle.

"The classification of these campervans as objectionable removes all doubt as to their unsuitability for their intended purpose."

It would now consider a number of other vans submitted by police for classification.

'LIGHT-HEARTED QUOTES'

Wicked's lawyers, Ford Sumner, argued that only a small amount of content on the vans related to drug use.

The company's overall intent was to attract attention through "light-hearted quotes, provocative sayings and colourful artistic imagery", the law firm's submission argued.

 "There is no content on Wicked's vehicles which would be injurious to the public good in any way or form and no objectionable activity is "promoted or supported" by the content," the submission said.

Wicked Campers and its lawyers have been approached for comment about the Classification Office's ruling.

UNDER INCREASING PRESSURE

The Australian company has come under increasing pressure in recent months from politicians, the public and other organisations concerned about the explicit designs on its vehicles.

A number of National MPs and government ministers have campaigned against Wicked, while the company has been removed from the Department of Conservation's website.

A number of campgrounds and councils have sought to ban or fine Wicked vehicles, and Z Energy recently floated the idea of refusing service to those driving in a Wicked car or van.

The founder and owner of Wicked Campers, Australian John Webb, has repeatedly declined to comment about the recent outcry over the vehicles.

 - Stuff

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