27 January 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No, It's Not 'understandable': Sport Northland Contravenes NZBORA By Denying Venue Access
The decision by Sport Northland to deny 'Stop Co-Governance', a community group, use of their Whangarei venue to hold a public meeting is illegal and defies the rights given to all Kiwis to voice their political opinions. This case, yet again, illustrates the contempt held by many for the foundational liberty of free speech, and it cannot be allowed to stand, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.
"While a private organisation, Sport Northland receives public funding from both local and central government. As such, it must accept the duties placed on it by NZBORA, including non-discrimination and the right to free speech, for those that use its facilities.
"The Free Speech Union stands by the right for this community group, or any lawful organisation, to make their claims in a publically funded venue.
"In the case Whitmore and Palmerston North City Council, which the Free Speech Union supported, the High Court found the cancellation decision was not a rational and reasonable limitation on rights and ordered that the event proceed. The similarities to this case are striking and we are confident the Courts will rule similarly.
"In correspondence with 'Stop Co-Governance', Sport Northland claimed they had 'recently changed their board structure to that of co-governance' so could not accept their booking. They concluded by stating they 'hoped this [was] understandable'.
"This neglect of Kiwis' speech rights is not understandable. The Free Speech Union is preparing legal action to stand for the speech rights of 'Stop Co-Governance'. We call on Sport Northland to apologise for this unacceptable breach of speech rights and accept the booking of this group."
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