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Paterson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-086 (18 December 2018)

  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Susie Staley MNZM
  • Mark Paterson
1 News


[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A complaint about the use of the term ‘holiday highway’ during a 1 News item, to refer to the road between Puhoi and Warkworth, was not upheld. The complainant submitted the term ‘holiday highway’ was ‘Labour Party propaganda’, and that its use minimises the seriousness of the road toll in that area and denigrates people who live in North Auckland or Northland. The Authority noted the term has been widely used in the media for a number of years to refer to the road, including prior to the recent General Election, and found it was not used with the malice or condemnation required to constitute a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration 

The broadcast

[1]  An item on 1 News reported on newly announced Government funding for road infrastructure. Introducing the item, the presenter stated:

The Government‘s infrastructure push is gaining momentum with today’s announcement of a record $76 billion plus on transport over the next three years. A third of the money [$5.7 billion] will be going to Auckland but that will be matched by investment in regional roads [$5.8 billion]. There's a focus on public transport too like Wellington's rail improvements [$4 billion] and there‘s nearly $6 billion [$5.7 billion] for State Highways including the Manawatu Gorge and the Puhoi to Warkworth ‘holiday highway’. [Emphasis added]

[2]  Later in the item, the reporter referred to the ‘so-called ‘holiday highway’ north of Auckland’, when explaining that large projects introduced by the previous government would continue.

[3]  This segment was broadcast on 31 August 2018 on TVNZ 1.

The complaint

[4]  Mark Paterson complained the use of the term ‘holiday highway’ was ‘lazy journalism’ and ‘Labour Party propaganda’, as the term was ‘generated and exclusively used by Labour’. Mr Paterson cited the road toll and his own story of personal tragedy on the road as evidence that this term should not be used. Mr Paterson also submitted that it was unreasonable to ‘denigrate’ and ‘trivialise the lives and commerce of people who live north of Auckland’.

[5]  Mr Paterson submitted the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard of the Free-to Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The broadcaster’s response

[6]  TVNZ submitted that the term ‘holiday highway’ would not lead to the denigration or discrimination against any section in the community. TVNZ submitted it is a widely used, non-pejorative term, citing the following:

  • Map creates confusion over 'holiday highway' (NZ Herald, 31 August 2012)
  • Brown accepts 'holiday highway’ (NZ Herald, 14 October 2010)
  • Holiday Highway Doesn’t Stack Up (Campaign for Better Transport, 5 December 2010)
  • Labour plan to shelve 'holiday highway' criticised (RNZ, 23 May 2011)

The standard

[7]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 6) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief. A high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will be necessary to find that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard.1

Our findings

[8]  When we consider a complaint that a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, we first look at the right to freedom of expression. We weigh the right to freedom of expression against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast. This could be harm to an individual, or harm to society or the audience generally. On this occasion the harm alleged is the denigration of people from Northland and North Auckland through the use of the term ‘holiday highway’.

[9]  We recognise that Mr Paterson has lost people close to him who were the victims of crashes on this road and we understand his concern for road safety awareness. However, we do not consider the use of the term ‘holiday highway’ breaches the discrimination and denigration standard.

[10]  The term ‘holiday highway’ has been widely used in the media for years to refer to the road, and it is not used in a discriminatory or denigratory way. In most cases, the term is used to describe the traffic density on the road during the holiday period, and not to diminish or trivialise the deaths that have occurred. It was clear the term was not used in this broadcast with any condemnation or malice, which as mentioned above, is required to find a breach of this standard.2

[11]  We therefore we do not uphold the complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.



Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Judge Bill Hastings
18 December 2018



The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      Mark Paterson’s formal complaint – 31 August 2018
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 1 October 2018
3      Mr Paterson’s referral to the Authority – 1 October 2018
4      TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 7 November 2018

Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15.

As above.