A group of politicians, lawyers, and commentators in favour of free speech has hired a Queen's Counsel to sue Auckland Council for banning two controversial far-right Canadian speakers from using city-owned venues.
In a statement today, the Free Speech Coalition confirmed it will be filing judicial review proceedings against the council, after it banned Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from using the council-owned Bruce Mason Centre on Auckland's North Shore next month.
The pair are known for holding far-right views on immigration, feminism and Islam.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he made the decision to deny them access to city venues.
The coalition includes former Labour Party Minister Dr Michael Bassett, former leader of the National and Act Parties Dr Don Brash, business leader Ashley Church, and university lecturers.
It argues the council, and/or Goff, breached freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights Act, and freedom from political discrimination under the Human Rights Act, by refusing to allow the speakers to use the venue.
The coalition launched a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for legal fees and exceeded its target of $50,000 by more than 50 per cent, it said.
With the additional funds, the group hired Jack Hodder, QC, to act as lead counsel.
The instructing solicitors will be from specialist public law firm Franks Ogilvie, the coalition said.
Today, the group's legal team also wrote to the council to clarify what it said were "conflicting statements" in the press by Goff about whose decision it was to ban the speakers, and the reasons for the ban.
Southern, who arrived in Australia over the weekend, was banned from entering Britain this year for her part "in the distribution of racist material in Luton", according to the BBC.
Immigration New Zealand initially asked her to apply for a special visa before travelling here because of her British ban, but later said she could enter New Zealand under the visa waiver programme for Canadian citizens.