The editor of a newspaper which published a cartoon currently before a Human Rights Review Tribunal says the print media sometimes publish provocative material to spark valuable public debate.
The tribunal hearing is being held in Auckland after Manurewa MP Louisa Wall laid a formal complaint against Fairfax over cartoons by Al Nisbet which were published in two newspapers last May.
One of the cartoons in Christchurch's The Press shows some characters with Polynesian features, conveying a family taking advantage of the food in schools programme.
Ms Wall claims the cartoons breaches Section 61 of the Human Rights Act, which incites racial disharmony.
Editor Joanna Norris told the hearing that she accepts the cartoon it published caused offence but believes it didn't bring Maori and Pasifika people into contempt.
She said that newspapers sometimes publish provocative material that spark valuable public debate.
Ms Norris said at the time of proofing the cartoon, she did consider issues of race and whether the piece would have a discriminatory affect, but concluded that that wasn't the case.
She told the tribunal if the cartoons are found to breach of the Human Rights Act it would have an insidious effect on freedom of expression, and in turn damage human rights within New Zealand.
The hearing is set down until Friday.