The High Court has dismissed an appeal for a judicial review against Auckland Council's regional facilities operations after it cancelled a booking from two Canadian speakers accused of hate speech.
Free Speech Coalition member David Cumin and Dunedin ticket holder and bookseller Malcolm Moncrief-Spittle applied to the High Court to review Regional Facilities Auckland Limited's (RFAL) decision to can the event featuring far right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux.
The cancellation led to the duo who hold far-right views on topics ranging from feminism and immigration to Islam being unable to speak publicly in New Zealand after they were unable to secure another venue.
Moncrief-Spittle and David Cumin argued the council had acted "irrationally" in ruling it posed a security risk and went against the council's policy to facilitate rights to free speech. They also argued mayor Phil Goff unlawfully influenced the decision.
The controversial event was to be held at the Bruce Mason Theatre in Takapuna last August, but was cancelled a month earlier after RFAL ruled it posed a health and safety threat.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff praised the decision at the time said they would be banned from council-owned venues as the venues should not be used to stir up ethnic or religious tensions.
Immigration NZ had also received mounting pressure to deny the pair entry with members of New Zealand's Muslim community and the Auckland Peace Action raising concern.
In his judgement released today, Justice Pheroze Jagose found that RFAL exercised "no public power" in deciding to cancel the event and did not breach the NZ Bill of Rights Act.
He also favoured RFAL's "clear and uncontradicted evidence" that it decided to cancel the event purely based on health and safety concerns and was unaffected by the mayor's view.
"I am satisfied there is unlikely to be any better evidence of the council's involvement in RFAL's decision to cancel the event," the judgement said.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff has welcomed the High Court's decision and said he was pleased but not surprised by the judgement.
"RFA acted entirely within its powers, cancelling the venue booking due to the public safety risk. That was the right decision and I supported it at the time."
He also stood by his views that people who want to come to New Zealand purely to demean and abuse people on the basis of their faith, race or culture were not welcome.
"The views espoused by the Canadian pair are repugnant, designed to denigrate minority communities, stir up ethnic tensions and incite hatred," he said.
"Auckland is a proudly multicultural, multifaith city. We don't need people coming from outside our country to tell us that we shouldn't embrace our multicultural identity," Mayor Goff said.
The applicants had interests in the matter due to Moncrief-Spittle losing money in costs associated with having a ticket. Cumin, who is a member of the Jewish community, was also concerned other community events may also be excluded from council venues in the future.