National leader Simon Bridges is backing calls for Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas to resign and says the Government needs to take action.

The calls have come after former National Party leader Don Brash was barred from speaking at Massey University after Thomas cited security concerns - but documents released under the Official Information Act revealed a different story this morning.

Brash was due to give a speech to the University's Politics Society in August, speaking about his life in politics, but after a threat to security, the university canned the talk.

Massey University has today continued to insist the reason for the cancellation was a security concern.

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But, documents released to right-wing blogger David Farrar under the Official Information Act suggested security was not the main concern, but that Thomas said she didn't want a "te tiriti led university be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours".

When questioned by the Herald about the situation, Bridges said he thought it was "appalling".

"I think Jan Thomas has to go," he said.

"She has been dishonest, and more than that she has tried to tort free speech and that is just not good enough anywhere in New Zealand and certainly not on university campuses."

Bridges said if the vice-chancellor didn't stand down, then the Government needed to step in.

Simon Bridges is backing calls for Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas to resign. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Simon Bridges is backing calls for Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas to resign. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"[Education Minister] Chris Hipkins needs to show some leadership on this.

"I have said before and I will say it again, the Government needs to use the tools in its toolbox to nip these issues around free speech in the bud now while they can.

"We don't want to go down some American style culture war where we see this sort of issue and people shouting down different views to them. He should stand up and be counted on it as well.

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"At the heart of democracy is free speech and if you can't get up and say sometimes stupid things, sometimes outrageous things, at a university campus - where the hell can you."

Brash, speaking to the Herald from Beijing today, said Thomas has no alternative but to resign.

"Frankly I don't think she has got any other alternative. She has been dishonest about the whole thing and clearly hoodwinked many involved, including me," he said.

"The press statement alludes briefly to security concerns, but then talks about my so-called support for the two right-wing Canadians and talks about at some greater length about Hobson's Pledge.

"It implies we are engaged in hate speech, it was always a pretext."

Massey University today insisted "genuine" security concerns were the reason for cancelling the speech.

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Massey University Students' Association Federation is disappointed that vice-chancellor Jan Thomas appears to have misled students. Photo / File
Massey University Students' Association Federation is disappointed that vice-chancellor Jan Thomas appears to have misled students. Photo / File

In a statement provided to the Herald a spokesman for Massey University addressed the emails.

"It shows the Vice-Chancellor was first advised of the event several weeks beforehand.

"She held concerns because of the upset that a previous visit by Hobson's Pledge representatives to campus had caused but had been prepared to let it go ahead under conditions the students had signed up to," the spokesman said.

It was when a security threat was raised that Thomas made the decision to cancel the booking.

"Despite what others have claimed, the concern about the threat was genuine. Professor Thomas has subsequently said the University is reviewing how staff assess security threats at its campuses."

The information requested under the Official Information Act was released in three parts.

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"One includes communications received after the cancellation, including voicemail transcripts and emails to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jan Thomas.

"The second part is security-related information, including staff file notes, the venue hire agreement signed on August 1, correspondence from the Politics Club about their concerns raised on August 4, and a screenshot of a gun reference on social media," the spokesman said.

The third was correspondence to and from Thomas including references to "Don Brash", "hate speech" or "Hobson's Pledge".

"It includes the initial notification from the politics club to the Vice-Chancellor, dated July 9, about the event planned for August 8; the statement on August 7 regarding the cancellation of the venue hire booking; and an email communication to staff."

The New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA) and Massey University Students' Association have also expressed their outrage at the revelations.

National President Jonathan Gee said, "We should be able to have robust debate on campus with people we disagree with, including our university leaders.

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"But to consider cutting funding to a group that disagrees with your actions is just foul play."

Gee says that these tactics have stemmed from Voluntary Student Membership, where tertiary institutions' management now hold all the cards.

"Students' associations have for too long been silenced from criticising our institutions for fear of 'biting the hand that feeds us'.

"These emails from the Vice-Chancellor are the purest example of the silencing effect that Voluntary Student Membership has had on student voice."

Albany Students' Association President Jason Woodroofe said two wrongs do not make a right.

"Threatening cuts to funding key student services in order to get what you want is not fair game. Everybody loses," he said.

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"We join Massey's Students' Associations in their call for their University Council to clarify its stance on funding independent students' associations.

"The Vice-Chancellor has broken the trust we have with our institutions, and we want to rebuild that."