Former National Party leader Don Brash will face protesters when he takes part in a debate on free speech at the University of Auckland tonight.

A student activist group which has campaigned against library cuts, A New University, says it will protest against the student Debating Society's decision to invite Brash to speak.

But spokeswoman Beth Stanley said the group was not asking the university to ban Brash, following Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas's decision to cancel an event he was due to speak at this week after threats against him on social media.

A Facebook user posted a link to the event page with the caption, "This guy lol ... if your [sic] up to nothing wensday [sic] head up to massey uni".

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In response, another person commented, "Take a gun".

Stanley said her group did ask the Debating Society not to invite Brash because he supported "hate speech".

"Since his infamous 'Orewa Speech' in 2004, Don Brash has remained a leading figure in legitimating racial dog whistle politics in Aotearoa," she said.

"Brash has a long resume of anti-Māori activity, including his involvement with the group Hobson's Pledge, his public dismissal of Māori wards on councils, opposition to incorporating principles of the Treaty into legislation and stating public broadcasting of Te Reo 'irritates the hell out of [him]'.

"Brash's haste to come to the defence of far-right ideologues Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux shows his commitment to the right to spread hate speech with no consideration of the consequences for those targeted by racial abuse and discrimination."

But she said she did not want the university to prevent the debate, in which Brash will lead a team affirming, "Has PC culture gone too far to the point it is limiting freedom of speech?"

Herald journalists Simon Wilson and Fran O'Sullivan will lead the opposing team, with a member of the Debating Society.

"We are not against the debate. We are against Don Brash's inclusion in the debate," said Stanley, a history student.

"So if people are interested in the topic of free speech and everything like that, that's great. We are encouraging people to attend in the context of our protest and to stand against Brash."

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were unable to speak in NZ after Auckland Mayor Phil Goff banned them from council venues and the PowerStation cancelled their meeting. File photo
Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were unable to speak in NZ after Auckland Mayor Phil Goff banned them from council venues and the PowerStation cancelled their meeting. File photo

Debating Society president Chris Ryan, a law and science student, said the society chose the topic of free speech weeks before the controversy erupted about the Southern and Molyneux visit.

"When we were looking at topics, we thought about free speech because we know it's a big topic on American university campuses," he said.

"On this campus, we thought about the European Students Association issue and the Pro-Life Club disaffiliation issue, so we thought that freedom of speech would be relevant here."

He said Brash was invited because he was "a very important speaker on freedom of speech issues".

"The case for having him has got stronger over the last couple of days after the Massey University thing," he said.

Unlike Thomas, Auckland University leaders have supported the debate and moved the venue yesterday into the biggest lecture theatre on the campus, the 550-seat Fisher and Paykel Auditorium in the Owen Glenn Building. The debate starts at 6.15pm.