$50K raised for judicial review after controversial speakers banned from Auckland Council venues

A crowd-sourced fund to begin legal action against Auckland Council reached its target of $50,000 in less than 24 hours, after two controversial Canadian speakers were banned from using council venues. 

Canadian conservative and libertarian activist Lauren Southern. Source: rnz.co.nz

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux had been banned from speaking at Auckland Council venues after intending to bring their tour to New Zealand. 

The Free Speech Coalition wrote on its website: "We have now hit the $50k goal, so will be proceeding with legal action! Every dollar donated will now go into the legal fund – to defend free speech in New Zealand."

Canterbury academic Melissa Derby, who is part of the Free Speech Coalition, told 1 NEWS it is important "we hear different views, consider them and judge them accordingly".

"It's not about the speakers' views at all, I personally don't agree with them, it's about us having the right to hear different views."

She said it was "really encouraging, that people in New Zealand really care about their free speech and feel the need to support it". 

The Free Speech Coalition are aiming to create a legal precedent, to ensure rate payer or publicly funded facilities "represent the views of everybody... and they're not determined by, for example the political view points of those in power or groups that put pressure on those in power".

"That's what's really important. Free speech has to apply to everybody," Ms Derby said. 

"Freedom of speech has brought about some really amazing things in our history, people like Martin Luther King wouldn't have been able to say what they said in terms of expressing views that at the time were controversial."

It comes after Canadian activists Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were not allowed to use a Auckland Council venue. Source: 1 NEWS

The Free Speech Coalition describes itself as a "group of New Zealanders concerned with the decision by Auckland Council and Mayor Goff to ban Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from using Council-owned venues to speak on August 3".

Mr Bridges said while he does "disagree strongly" with the views of Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, "freedom of speech matters". Source: Breakfast

"The ban sets a dangerous precedent for anyone who wants to express, or hear, controversial views." 

Ms Southern is a 23-year-old author and her views have been described as anti-Islam, anti-refugee, anti-feminist and borderline white nationalist, and Mr Molyneux is also an author and YouTuber, and he usually covers topics like multiculturalism, anti-feminism and anarcho-capitalism.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told RNZ's Morning Report he was "not going to aid and abet people who spout racist nonsense by providing them with a venue"

"I've simply not been complicit with their views by providing them with a venue from which to do it," he said. 

Mr Goff tweeted: "Let me be very clear, the right to free speech does not mean the right to be provided with an @AklCouncil platform for that speech."

Ms Southern tweeted a letter she said she received from Immigration New Zealand not allowing her entry into New Zealand, that was later retracted. 

It said due to her ban from entering the UK, she would not be given a visa to New Zealand but she could seek to obtain a Special Direction before entering. 

However, Ms Southern tweeted a follow up email which said Immigration Border Operations "recently confirmed that your ban from the UK does not affect your ability to travel to, or enter New Zealand". 

"Thanks I guess? Now if we could be unbanned from our venue that'd be great," Ms Southern wrote. 

An Auckland Council Spokesperson told 1 NEWS "the decision to cancel the contract was made by Auckland Live due to security concerns around the health and safety of the presenters, staff and patrons". 

When asked if Auckland Council had voted on the decision, they said it was an "operatoinal one handled by Auckland Live".