A Māori film-maker is defending her petition to revoke Sir Bob Jones' knighthood and is building her legal defence against his defamation suit with comments made by the wealthy businessman from as far back as the 1970s.

In May, Jones filed defamation papers in the High Court at Wellington against Renae Maihi, the woman behind a petition after his controversial newspaper column in the National Business Review.

The column, calling for a "Māori Gratitude Day" instead of Waitangi Day, began with the opening line "time for a troll".

In response to Jones' statement of claim, Maihi admitted the language used in her petition was defamatory but denies defaming Jones, relying on a defence of honest opinion, truth and absolute privilege.

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In her statement of defence, released to the Herald by the High Court today, she claims the content of Jones' column was racist because it was "disparaging, prejudicial and/or discriminatory towards Maori".

Maihi also reaffirmed her belief that Jones' remarks constituted "hate speech".

"Over the course of many years, [Jones] has publicly expressed views that are racist, disparaging, prejudicial and/or discriminatory towards Maori and other racial or ethnic groups," it reads.

Attached to the papers are several articles and news stories, dating from 1973 to last year, quoting Jones' opinion on social issues, race, justice and politics.

The clippings come from publications including New Zealand Truth, North & South, the New Zealand Herald, NBR, and former satirical television news show Eating Media Lunch.

"The petition taken as a whole was in substance true, or was in substance not materially different from the truth," Maihi's statement of defence reads.

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

The Toronto-based filmmaker submitted her petition, with about 70,000 signatures, to Parliament in March.

"In signing this petition we urge you, our Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, to take his knighthood away from him," it reads in part.

"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."

Maihi also called Jones' column a "vile racist rant".

Her intended defence of absolute privilege for proceedings in Parliament falls under the Parliamentary Privilege Act and Defamation Act.

In Jones' statement of claim, also released to the Herald, the businessman contests that Maihi's petition implies he is a racist and an author of hate speech.

He argues both meanings are false and defamatory.

Maihi also repeated her allegedly defamatory remarks, Jones claims, in interviews with Stuff and Radio New Zealand during February.

Jones' column was removed by NBR, which the businessman, knighted for services to the sector, said was satire.

In it he wrote: "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."

The Human Rights Commission released a statement after NBR removed the column from its website and said: "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."

After the Herald reported Jones was suing Maihi, New Zealanders began a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for the filmmaker's legal fees.

Jones also threatened legal action and demanded an apology and retraction after a University of Waikato professor called him "racist" on social media last month.

In April, a Press Council complaint by Mel Whaanga, who said Jones' column was "racist", was also dismissed.

Jones has since stopped writing his column for NBR but has written for Cameron Slater's blog site Whale Oil.