Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has been invited to debate freedom of speech at Pauline Hanson's first public appearance in New Zealand.

The Australian senator, whose One Nation party is best known for wanting tighter controls on immigration, is set to speak at the Auckland Council-owned Takapuna War Memorial Hall on November 24.

The meeting is organised by the Government Accountability League, a group that recently emerged from a hiatus of almost 20 years.

League president John Lehmann invited Goff after he effectively barred Canadian speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux from council venues over their extreme views on topics from immigration to Islam.


Lehmann told Goff the meeting would be "a great place to put the record right, or put your views why it's your job to say who can speak at publicly owned facilities".

Goff's office said he was away on holiday and had not yet seen the invitation. They said council venues were available for anyone to hire, provided the use was lawful.

The debate over freedom of speech is gathering momentum, with a group called the Free Speech Coalition today announcing its intention to issue legal proceedings against Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas over her decision to cancel a speaking event featuring Hobson's Pledge founder Don Brash.

Hobson's Pledge says its vision for New Zealand is a society in which all citizens have the same rights, irrespective of when they or their ancestors arrived.

Thomas cancelled the event on security grounds but went on to say views held by Hobson's Pledge came dangerously close to hate speech.

Her decision was criticised by MPs across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Lehmann, who said Thomas should be "booted out", said the war memorial hall was an appropriate venue because it honoured "men and women who fight for freedom of speech".

Southern and Molyneux's promoter had originally booked the council-owned Bruce Mason Centre. A subsequent booking at Auckland's Powerstation was cancelled at the eleventh hour when the owner discovered it was for the Canadians.

Lehmann has invited Southern and Molyneux to appear alongside Hanson.

"We are no way aligned with those two people. However, we as a group believe they have the right under New Zealand law, and should be able to have their say."

Topics at the meeting would include the "failure of multiculturalism in New Zealand", Lehmann said. Hanson would discuss the impact New Zealand's "loose" immigration policies have had on Australia. Her office has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Lehmann restated his intention to make the meeting for "New Zealanders only". He denied that making that stipulation, the decision to book a council venue and the invites to Goff and Canadians were simply stunts to generate publicity.

"Of course it will draw publicity, it's inevitable it will draw publicity but the fact of the matter is we're approaching it in a very fair way giving all parties the opportunity to be heard.

John Lehmann, the president of the Government Accountability League, has invited Phil Goff to debate freedom of speech. Photo / Supplied
John Lehmann, the president of the Government Accountability League, has invited Phil Goff to debate freedom of speech. Photo / Supplied

"We're not banning Phil Goff. He's got an alternative opinion. Obviously he feels that free speech shouldn't be allowed. He obviously feels that he's somehow the moral guardian of what should and shouldn't be heard in council venues in spite of the fact they're owned by the public not him. We're just trying to be very fair."

League plans to make a 1996 meeting "New Zealanders only" were dropped after Pakuranga College and Manukau City Council refused that stipulation at their venues. The council relented after the league said the meeting would be open to all.

Lehmann said no one who "identified" as a New Zealander would be barred from the Hanson event, regardless of where they were born or how long they'd been in the country.

"We're talking about the direction of the country. Why would it be of any interest to a Czechoslovakian for example? So that's what the whole 'New Zealanders only' thing is about. We're not going to stop anybody coming through and listening to somebody speak. That's bizarre."

The office of the Human Rights Commission said it's unlawful to deny people access to a place based on prohibited grounds of discrimination, which included nationality and citizenship.

Lehmann, who has consistently described himself as a realist not a racist, said he wouldn't let his group be hijacked by far-right sympathisers.

"We have in the past had certain crazies come out of the woodwork and sort of want to try deliberately to align themselves with us and I've told them basically to bugger off.

"We're for the average person, irrespective of their racial background, provided they come along and they have New Zealand's best interest at heart ... We're certainly not going to align ourselves with people who feel that one race is superior to the other."

Hanson used her maiden speech in the Australian Parliament in 1996 to propose a big reduction in immigration, particularly from Asia. She wants Australians to have a vote on migration at their next general election. She has consistently rejected charges of racism.

Lehmann's group was first active in the second half of the 1990s when membership peaked at about 13,000. It shares many of Hanson's views, including advocating for tougher rules on immigration.

The league predicted in 1996 that immigration would bring problems, including putting pressure on the housing market and infrastructure. That year it also ran a "Dob a wog" campaign to root out overstayers.