More money is being raised for a Kiwi film-maker's legal fund as she prepares for a courtroom showdown with Sir Bob Jones after calling for his knighthood to be revoked for "hate speech".

The well-known businessman filed defamation proceedings against Renae Maihi in May 2018, after the Toronto-based artist delivered a petition to Parliament demanding Jones lose his title.

The petition, which now has more than 82,000 online signatures, was in response to a controversial column by Jones in the National Business Review in February 2018 proposing Waitangi Day be called Māori "Gratitude Day" instead.

A trial is due to begin next month in the High Court at Wellington.


While Maihi told the Herald today she was unable to comment ahead of her court date, a new Givealittle page created yesterday is asking for help as her legal coffers dry up.

The page, established by Maihi's friend and fellow film-maker Leo Koziol, reads: "Costs are piling up, funds are running low and more help is needed. At this crucial time please give what you can to help cover legal costs, travel costs and koha."

It is the second such effort to crowdfund for Maihi's defence after an earlier Givealittle page saw $26,190 donated.

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

In Jones' statement of claim, earlier released to the Herald, he argues the petition implies he is a racist and an author of hate speech.

He says both meanings are false and defamatory.

The petition read in-part: "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."

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

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

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, her statement of defence shows.

She 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 Māori and other racial or ethnic groups," her statement of defence reads.

It is anticipated that Maihi's legal team will use articles and news stories quoting Jones' opinion on social issues, race, justice and politics.

Several clippings, dating as far back as the 1970s, were attached to Maihi's statement of defence from publications including North & South, the New Zealand Herald, NBR and former satirical television news show Eating Media Lunch.

Jones, whose knighthood is for services to the business community, has said his column was satirical.

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."

A Press Council - now Media Council - complaint by Mel Whaanga, who said Jones' column was "racist", was dismissed but the opinion piece was considered to be "malicious and infantile" by most of the members.

After suing Maihi, Jones also threatened legal action and demanded an apology and retraction after a University of Waikato professor called him "racist" on social media in June 2018.