Conservative Party founder Colin Craig will not be given a fourth opportunity to cross-examine his former press secretary over their tempestuous past during yet another defamation trial after a judge ruled it "oppressive".
The former politician and Conservative Party board member John Stringer are suing each other, alleging they were both defamed during the fallout of the 2014 general election.
In 2015, Stringer made several public allegations against Craig, including that the millionaire property developer had sexually harassed his press secretary Rachel MacGregor.
Craig, the then Conservative Party leader, responded by holding a press conference with his wife, Helen, and published a booklet titled Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas.
He then distributed it to 1.6 million Kiwi households.
In the pamphlets, which came at a personal cost of more than $250,000, Craig targeted what he called the trio of "schemers", whom he believed had plotted against him in a calculated and ruthless character assassination.
The three men were New Zealand Taxpayers' Union founder Jordan Williams, Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater and Stringer.
Craig has been involved in defamation proceedings with them all, largely over the same allegations involving MacGregor.
Stringer says he was also defamed by four others, including Helen Craig.
A four-week trial starting in August in the High Court at Auckland was set to resolve Craig and Stringer's claims, where Craig would also have been given the opportunity to question MacGregor on the witness stand for a fourth time.
However, Justice Matthew Palmer today said "enough is enough".
"Mr Stringer has indicated he does not wish to call Ms MacGregor as a witness in these proceedings, for the understandable reason of not wanting to put her through a trial for a fourth time," the judge, who is the son of former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, said.
"But, by doing so, Mr Stringer puts himself at a significant disadvantage in defending the claim that he lied when he said Ms MacGregor was sexually harassed, on the basis that was true or not materially different from the truth."
Justice Palmer continued in his ruling: "It cannot be right that a litigant can sue any number of defendants in defamation, in separate proceedings over a period of years, for publishing substantially the same allegations concerning sexual harassment of a person, requiring each of those defendants to call evidence about that alleged harassment in order to defend themselves.
"Enough is enough. Allowing Mr Craig to pursue the defamation proceeding he initiated against Mr Stringer would either require Ms MacGregor to give evidence and be cross examined for a fourth time about whether Mr Craig sexually harassed her or would put Mr Stringer at a significant disadvantage in his defence."
The judge said it would be "oppressive to either Ms MacGregor or Mr Stringer".
"Mr Craig has had, and continues to have, plenty of access to justice on this subject, in other proceedings. I consider it would be an abuse of the High Court's processes for Mr Craig to be able to pursue his defamation proceeding against Mr Stringer."
Craig argued there was no abuses of process and no evidence that the proceedings are oppressive.
Stringer, meanwhile, said Craig is an exceptional serial litigant who has abused the procedures of the court to engage in protracted "lawfare".
He argued the repeated cross-examination of MacGregor is poignant and lies at the heart of his reticence to call her yet again for cross-examination.
Justice Palmer stayed Craig's suit against Stringer and "for the same reasons" stayed the element of Stringer's defamation claim against Craig and the other defendants.
In his ruling, the judge also ordered Stringer provide Craig with Facebook posts and blog posts by Stringer, and communications between Stringer and Slater, or others associated with Whale Oil.
Other email and communications were also ordered to be handed over, while Stringer was further told to pay $5000 as security for costs if he wishes to continue to pursue his claim against Craig and the other defendants.
Craig's trials against Williams and Slater have concluded but are now subject to appeals.
The Supreme Court has ordered a retrial in the case between Craig and Williams, but it is understood Williams is now seeking recall of the top court's judgment.
After a four-week trial in 2016, a jury had found in Williams' favour and awarded him $1.27m, the highest amount for defamation damages in New Zealand's legal history.
The Craig and Slater case is now before the Court of Appeal after Justice Kit Toogood ruled the blogger defamed the ex-politician but declined to award damages.
Justice Toogood also found Craig sexually harassed MacGregor "on multiple occasions from early 2012 to 2014".
Earlier this month, in a costs ruling for the Craig and Slater case, Justice Toogood described Craig as self-absorbed, hypocritical and clinging to idea of a "special relationship" with MacGregor.
Last year, Craig and MacGregor also counter-sued each other.
They are now currently awaiting the judgment of Justice Anne Hinton.
Craig, however, withdrew his claim for damages against his former employee after he became aware she could not pay him if he won the case.
A confidential settlement between Craig and MacGregor had been reached in May 2015, but Craig was later ordered to pay MacGregor more than $120,000 by the Human Rights Review Tribunal after it ruled he breached the agreement in media interviews.