Sir Bob Jones has filed defamation papers against a filmmaker behind a petition to have his knighthood revoked after a controversial newspaper column.

More than 68,000 people signed the petition, which was delivered to Parliament in March, in response to Jones' February 2 column in the National Business Review calling for a Māori "Gratitude Day" instead of Waitangi Day.

Filmmaker Renae Maihi started the petition and presented it to Labour MP Kiritapu Allan with the support of Waikato University Professor Pou Temara, an expert in te reo and tikanga.

The petition read: "In signing this petition we urge you, our Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, to take his knighthood away from him. It is in your power. Set a precedent for the country and a message that this will not be tolerated and hate speech of this type is not welcome here."

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Jones' knighthood is for services to the business community.

Today, the High Court confirmed defamation papers were filed in Wellington against Maihi. A date for a case management conference has yet to be set.

In response to the Herald seeking comment, Jones' reply was tongue-in-cheek.

"That's a tough one," he said.

"So no I haven't [filed papers]. I lied on Whale Oil and the judiciary are trying to wind you up and are lying as well, the bastards. So keep your guard up son. You can't trust anyone and certainly not the judiciary."

In a column on Cameron Slater's blog site Whale Oil, Jones also wrote today: "I'm delighted to report that my libel writ has been served on Maihi. Now it's my turn."

Maihi declined to comment when approached by the Herald, but posted on Facebook that her legal team will respond soon.

Jones' NBR column started with the opening line "time for a troll" before he said: "I have in mind a public holiday where Māori bring us breakfast in bed or weed our gardens, wash and polish our cars and so on, out of gratitude for existing.

"And if any Māori​ tries arguing that he/she didn't have a slight infection of Irish blood or whatever, they might be the better for it, the answer is no, sunshine."

NBR removed the column, which Jones said was satire, from its website "due to inappropriate content". Jones has since stopped writing his column for NBR.

A Press Council complaint by Mel Whaanga, who said Jones' comments were "racist", was also dismissed in April.

However, the Press Council, which voted 7 to 4 against Whaanga, criticised the column and considered it "malicious and infantile".

Maihi told the Herald when she submitted her petition that there was "quite a sizeable voice that supports the removal of this knighthood".

"It's very important that Aotearoa New Zealand takes these words seriously, takes the impact of racism seriously, because it does impact people in their daily lives," she said.

"For these words to not be taken seriously, to be swept under the carpet, would be deeply irresponsible. We've had enough."

Professor Pou Temara and filmmaker Renae Maihi delivered the petition to Parliament. Photo / Derek Cheng
Professor Pou Temara and filmmaker Renae Maihi delivered the petition to Parliament. Photo / Derek Cheng

Jones earlier told the Herald his NBR column was made up of "a factual situation" and "a satirical suggestion".

"NBR gladly accepted it, then, after idiotic complaints which would have Billy T James spinning in his grave, decided it was inappropriate. That's a relative term inviting the obvious question, inappropriate to what?"

The Human Rights Commission also released a statement after NBR removed the column from its website.

"We welcome the NBR's decision to remove the article," the HRC said in a statement.

"Sir Bob Jones and those outlets who choose to publish this kind of rhetoric need to be prepared for the public backlash and condemnation they provoke and deserve."