Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has been awarded $325,000 in damages for being defamed by Cameron Slater.
But the multi-millionaire property developer acknowledged he is unlikely to recover any of the money after the former Whale Oil blogger went bankrupt.
It followed Craig winning part of an appeal in July, which resulted in the High Court redetermining damages and costs against Slater at a hearing in November.
Craig, who founded the Conservative Party in 2011, told Justice Rebecca Edwards he was seeking damages of between $500,000 and $700,000.
It continued the lengthy litigation, which involved a trial in 2017 over allegations published by Slater about Craig's sexual morality involving former press secretary Rachel MacGregor, claims of electoral fraud, and lies to the media.
Justice Kit Toogood, in a more than 200-page judgment in 2018, found Slater and his company, Social Media Consultants Ltd (SMC), defamed Craig through 10 publications.
He also dismissed Slater's counter-claim and was the first to rule Craig had sexually harassed MacGregor "on multiple occasions from early 2012 to 2014".
The now-retired judge declined to award Craig damages, finding the harm to his reputation was caused almost entirely by his own actions. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed, stating a nil award where defamation has been established is a defective verdict.
After reconsidering the case, Justice Edwards on Wednesday awarded damages of $325,000 to Craig.
Slater, who suffered multiple strokes in 2018 and was neither at November's hearing nor represented by a lawyer, was solely liable for $80,000 of the sum over statements he made in a radio interview in June 2015.
He and SMC were jointly and severally liable for the balance relating to the Whale Oil posts, Justice Edwards ruled.
Craig told the Herald today he was happy with the court's ruling but said he was unlikely to recover any of the money after Slater went into voluntary bankruptcy in 2019.
He said it was a "clear signal" bloggers and other social media operators "have an obligation to tell the truth" or face consequences for publishing whispers and rumours.
While Craig was largely self-represented he did seek legal assistance in the preparation of his claim and during trial. He sought more than $150,000 for this and was also awarded disbursements of $95,000 by Justice Edwards.
The most damaging falsehood published by Slater, Craig argued at November's hearing, was the allegation he was abusing his position as leader of the party to carry out a "witch-hunt" and commit electoral fraud.
"One cannot run for office if there has been a finding of electoral fraud," he said.
Justice Edwards said the defamatory statements relating to personal sexual morality fall into a different category, her decision released to the Herald reads.
"The damage caused by these statements must take into account that Mr Craig was found to have sexually harassed Ms MacGregor and that other statements directed at this aspect of Mr Craig's character were found to be true. That does not mean Mr Craig did not suffer further reputational damage which must be compensated.
"But it does mean, as Mr Craig properly acknowledges, that the true statements moderate the impact of the defamatory statements relating to personal sexual morality."
MacGregor's resignation two days before the 2014 election, and her public description of Mr Craig as "manipulative" and "un-Christian", had already dented Craig's reputation, Justice Edwards said.
"The controversy following Ms MacGregor's resignation was widely seen as the reason for the Conservative Party's failure to win a seat at the 2014 election.
"That failure led to further fractures within the Conservative Party and information being leaked to the media. That information included an internal report which was highly critical of Mr Craig."
Justice Edwards said the case was not one "of those relatively rare cases" in New Zealand
where the conduct also needed to be punished and declined to award punitive damages.
The case is one of several defamation actions involving Craig after what judges have described as the "implosion" of the Conservative Party and "the political rise and fall of Mr Colin Craig".
At a 2018 trial, Craig and MacGregor counter-sued each other before Justice Anne Hinton again found Craig had sexually harassed the former TVNZ reporter.
The judge also said the pair defamed each other.
Craig, who withdrew his claim for damages against MacGregor during the trial, challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal last year and a judgment is yet to be delivered.