'A champion of good': Friends write on Penny Bright's coffin before emotional funeral

Penny Bright's friends and family adorned her coffin with messages of love at the late activist's funeral on Sunday.

Ms Bright died on October 4, five months after being diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.

The 64-year-old was best known for her years-long stand-off with Auckland Council over her unpaid rates. She also ran for mayor of Auckland several times.

About 300 people gathered at St Matthew-in-the-City on Sunday afternoon to celebrate Ms Bright's life. Several other activists attended the memorial alongside her friends and family, as well as Labour MP Willie Jackson.

The church was filled with protest signs as well as posters from Ms Bright's mayoral campaign. Red, white and black fabric was used to decorate the space, and people standing at the entrance to the church held long sticks with the coloured fabric tied to the end.

People wrote messages on her simple wooden coffin such as 'Forever in our hearts' and 'I will never forget, I will never give up'.

There seemed to be a message from Ms Bright herself at the head of the coffin, which read: 'Thanks, yippee I lived'.

Ms Bright's coffin was then carried into the church to the song 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' from the satirical 1979 film Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Attendees were shown a slideshow of photos from Ms Bright's early life, as well as some of her most memorable moments of activism - usually involving creative protest signs.

In an emotional eulogy, friend and playwright Verity George called Ms Bright her "comrade-in-arms".

"Penny was a champion of good over evil, and right over wrong," she told the attendees.

Ms Bright's brother John spoke about he and his siblings' "free-range childhood," growing up on a six-acre farm in the Wairarapa.

Unite Union leader Mike Treen said Ms Bright could "drive you mad" at times.

"You'd have to split with her or she'd have to expel you for some misdeed, but at the end of the day it was still the cause that was the most important, and you came together again."

Māori activist Tame Iti also paid tribute to Ms Bright.

"A woman who was not shy to say anything," he said. "I had a lot of respect for her."