Knighthood Interrupted, and the curious case of New Zealand Defamation Law

Written By: - Date published: 7:36 pm, February 12th, 2018 - 119 comments
Categories: articles, feminism, journalism, Media, racism - Tags: , , , ,

Some of you who have been watching the news lately may have noticed a petition by film-maker Renae Maihi, requesting that the Prime Minister revoke the Knighthood of one Mr. Bob Jones1, purveyor of racist trolling extraordinaire, and experiencer of multiple opinion column withdrawal, including honours in the category of sexism, and beneficiary bashing. I won’t deny that he is one of many deserving cases for confiscating titles awarded for no good reason, however that’s not even where the interesting part of this sordid tale starts.

For those unfamiliar with the History of Bob, this is a man with a history of litigiousness, having brought previous defamation cases before, to the tune of $800,000 in damages. This is a man who Cameron Slater called offensive for comments in the NZ Herald2. Here is the amended version of the article in question, which is still not great, implying as it does that we should let people starve to solve the problem of “welfare dependency,” but at least has no reference to incitement to suicide which was apparently the reason for its revision, although the piece’s title is still revealing in that regard if you ask me. This is also a man who has previously “jokingly” advocated police violence, which was well-covered at the time by QoT. (and society being what it is, we are still dealing with Bob four years and change later)

I think we can all agree that Bob doesn’t understand the nature of humour very well if any of that is his idea of a joke, and simply doesn’t seem to understand that punching down isn’t funny, it’s just abusing your power, whereas self-mockery or punching up is indeed quite humorous.

Naturally, this guy is threatening to sue over the petition, quibbling with the definition of “hate speech,” when such debates are best resolved as, well, public debates, not sad old men dragging people into court for no good reason. Bob presumably still has some sort of platform left judging by the fact that he keeps popping up like a whack-a-mole, rather than suing people, surely his response should be to clarify why his comments are not hateful, if there is in fact any reasonable defense available to him?

Even relatively conservative media outlets like One News are noting that the outrage is real, with the petition climbing up there into the stratosphere of 50,000 signatures, just like the one for them to dump Hosking from their election coverage. It is very rare for online petitions in New Zealand to exceed 10,000 signatures.

There were also other allegations surfacing on social media about his litigiousness:

While researching him, I found a final incident reported where nearby passengers literally applauded after staff were forced to kick him off a flight because he kicked up a fuss over nothing. Judge that how you will.

Now that we’ve established exactly who we’re talking about, I have a case to make. Let’s fix our defamation laws so that the Bob Joneses of the world can’t sue at the drop of a hat. It is wrong that, if Mr. Jones chooses to bring his suit, the only defense available to Ms. Maihi will be to prove, as if she’s guilty until determined innocent, (it isn’t quite that bad, but it’s close) that her comments are factually correct to the satisfaction of the court, and that Bob Jones did in fact engage in hate speech. (which at least colloquially, is a pretty reasonable case, however it will depend on how the court would define the term- if we’re talking about the academic version, ie. speech that incites violence due to hatred, that particular article may be pushing it, although taken in context of the entire canon of Mr. Jones’ work, it would seem reasonable to assume that he continues to hate certain people when he has had no compunction implying threats against them before, and thus read his articles in that context)

It is also wrong that the chilling effect of these sorts of cases stands in the way of movements like the #MeToo campaign spreading in New Zealand, because people need to worry about being sued if they name an abuser with the wealth to bring a court case. We should not have to worry about lawsuits about defamation when a person cannot prove they are innocent of a crime- that is the consistent standard we have for compensation for the state, and it should be the standard for defamation about previous court cases, or matters that never went before the court in the first place for whatever reason, if there is to be any degree of consistency under the law.

To clarify, it’s not wrong that we have defamation laws- they are useful for preventing slander and the misapplication of rumour, and malicious reporting. What is wrong is that they’re being used for disputes like this and require minimal evidence from the person filing the complaint, and the chilling effect they could have on political debate and bringing attention to miscarriages of justice. For your average person, even attending court proceedings for stating their political opinion is the height of bullying, a fact Mr. Jones seems to not understand. We should consider, for instance, the example of the United States’ defamation laws: they have defenses of fair comment and criticism, (which would see this and many prominent New Zealand cases thrown out of court before even starting) and they require the prosecution to establish malice on behalf of the defendant- (again, that would dismiss this case) that they either knowing published false information, or published false information with “reckless disregard” for the truth.

These would all be useful concepts to consider importing into New Zealand law, deriving as they do from a strong tradition of freedom of speech. It would also be useful for the law to note that powerful people, such as Jones, while they have more opportunity for reputational damage, also have more opportunity to have their side of a debate heard in the public sphere, and therefore the bar should in fact be higher for the wealthy and privileged to sue those who cannot be described as either of those things for defamation or libel, because their access to alternatives to the courts are greater. We should probably be aiming for some sort of happy medium between our laws and the US status quo, where most such cases are dismissed before making it to the court. In our current system, we have high-profile defamation cases popping up in the news pretty much every year. We should also consider if someone repeating an incorrect claim from a credible source should really be held responsible for it, rather than the original person who published that incorrect claim- if for instance, Bob Jones decided that there was an inaccuracy in one of the news pieces I have linked about him, under our law as-is, I am risking being his next target, because rather than being obliged to sue one of the news organizations I linked for being the original publisher, he can instead sue any person he likes who repeats an inaccuracy, even if they have taken reasonable measures like I have to ensure they are only talking about substantiated information3, because it’s apparently everyone’s duty to ensure the complete accuracy of everything they tell to their associates, even though such a standard is a practical impossibility for people who aren’t doing it professionally- even the professionals make mistakes and publish retractions.

Changing the law might make it harder for wealthy people to shut down rumour, but the job of shutting down rumour and purveying fact isn’t generally for the courts, except in the most serious of cases, it’s for the press, who are supposed to be the arbiters of fact in the public opinion the same way courts are the arbiters of fact under the law. Just because the press haven’t been struggling with their job lately and are enjoying instead attacking every politician or other public figure they can get their hands on through rumour and insinuation doesn’t mean that we should leave the option to bully people into silence open to the wealthy, rather we should hold the press to a higher standard (although preferably not through the courts) instead.

This is arguably a very good case for a Member’s Bill, especially as the ballot now seems to be being used by the entire house rather than just the Greens, (which is a bit of a pity, as they got a lot of excellent things done by Member’s Bill back in the day, and even had arguably more than their share be drawn under the last Government) if not necessarily productively by everyone, although I would be pleasantly surprised to see a National Party member take this issue up4.


1 As with John Key, I’m not calling this guy “Sir” in anything but a fit of irony, or perhaps to make a case for the backronym “Services In Racism.” If you’d like to tweet along with me on this topic, I’m using the hashtag #Knightsuit. Apologies for the pun. There’s also a valid point that such people having titles is a good reason to be suspicious of them, but as a small-r republican, I leave that determination to people who support their continued existence, because I oppose them on principle anyway.

2 I’m not linking to that site, but you should be able to google it if you’re curious exactly what Slater says. I considered not including it in this piece at all, until I found substantiation that the article had been edited. I think however we can all agree that if Slater says someone on the right-wing is offensive, that can basically be taken as a professional opinion.

3 I sincerely hope you all appreciate my willingness to risk prosecution to make a point about how screwed up our defamation law is.

4 There are also other issues that are ripe for reform, too, that could potentially be addressed by Member’s Bill. People on Twitter were also discussing today making it illegal for Corrections officers or Police to engage in sexual acts with people in their custody, for instance, as it is currently simply grounds to be fired rather than a criminal offense. If anyone is familiar with how laws are written, I/S from No Right Turn has a long-running project to put up template bills for adoption if you feel like doing some productive work, although this does require you opening yourself up to doing a bad job of drafting law.

Addition: Stuart Munro in comment 7.1.1.2 kindly points out that there are United Kingdom precedents for the revocation of Bob’s honour.

119 comments on “Knighthood Interrupted, and the curious case of New Zealand Defamation Law”

  1. Ad 1

    It would have been more useful if the NBR had let his article be published.

    The timing was that as Prime Minister Ardern ascended to heaven at the Apotheosis of Bacon in Waitangi, the Devil Mephisto who Sold His Soul For Property appearing to Man as Bob Jones would have been nigh perfect media match and of course would have seen a mass cancellation of remaining NBR subscriptions.

    Let the full realm of public opinion clash its waves.

    • Matthew Whitehead 1.1

      It was published, it was just withdrawn afterwards. This is the clashing of the waves, and Bob is demanding floaties because waves hurt his feelings.

      • Matthew Whitehead 1.1.1

        Also, you’ll note that I come to the same conclusion as you did regarding Bob’s lawsuit: let public opinion sort out the debate of whether she was unfair to him, don’t put it before the court.

        I don’t mind Bob being able to speak his mind, but I don’t believe he deserves any particular government acknowledgement or media assistance with doing so, given how incredibly unpopular his pieces are, and I don’t think he needs the courts to protect his feelings from people less wealthy and privileged than him making a political point in response.

        • alwyn 1.1.1.1

          ” given how incredibly unpopular his pieces are”.
          Why do you regard your claim of unpopularity as a “given”?
          That sounds as if you have some evidence for the statement.
          If asked for some evidence could you offer anything more than a waffle such as “All my friends say he is awful” or “Everyone I know complains in detail about anything he says”.
          He does have some good friends you know. He and Trevor Mallard are great mates.

          • rhinocrates 1.1.1.1.1

            He does have some good friends you know. He and Trevor Mallard are great mates.

            That doesn’t surprise me in the least.

      • Carolyn_Nth 1.1.2

        It’s still available in the hard copy.

        • Muttonbird 1.1.2.1

          Yep, you can’t delete print.

          Perhaps NBR could issue a recall notice?

        • Anon 1.1.2.2

          Is it available online somewhere still? I am curious what all the controversy is about.

          • mpledger 1.1.2.2.1

            If someone has the original URL is may be available through the wayback machine – http://archive.org/web/

          • Matthew Whitehead 1.1.2.2.2

            He essentially suggested that he’s sick of Waitangi day being complaining about, and Pakeha too, when we brought all these nice things to New Zealand, and why shouldn’t there be a “Māori Gratitude Day,” where they serve us breakfast in bed.

            Unfortunately, I don’t have the original URL.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.2.2.3

            Try the top link in the OP – the petition has the full text.

  2. Leonhart Hunt 2

    he should take every person who signed it to court, because I would love to stand in front of this guy and tell him exactly what I think of his racist speech. (and cost him a ton of legal fees)

    Why is the creators of the pertition more culpable than each signatory, we are expressing our disgust at his words/deeds as protected by freedom of expression, its also not defamation

    “Defamation, calumny, vilification, or traducement is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation.”

    its not false.

    • Matthew Whitehead 2.1

      Well, if the court was going to throw them all out, I wouldn’t disagree. My objection here is that there’s a very real possibility that due to the technicalities of how our law works, Ms. Maihi might be found guilty, when clearly she was merely expressing an entirely forgivable opinion.

    • Johan 2.2

      Bob Jones has committed a typical Trump action. Whenever, Trump felt that he was ill treated, whether from accusations by women or a bank which demanded repayment of his loans, Trump was always eager to litigate.

  3. AsleepWhileWalking 3

    I miss QoT.

  4. Hornet 4

    When someone writes something we disagree with, the best course of action is to refute the author with reason. Some of the reaction to this latest piece by Jones (like a meaningless petition to remove his knighthood) is just giving the writing more oxygen.

    • Leonhart Hunt 4.1

      well he is claiming that we should all know it was a “ptake”, but based on his past history and the fact that nothing in the article refers to it being a joke (albit in poor taste) its a usual excuse when someone gets caught out for racism and is not acceptable.

      even if it was a joke, he should lose his knighthood because racism isn’t funny, isn’t clever and should not be used as comedy material, the only way this will get though to those that think it is consequences.

      it should also be clear by now that the whole knighthood system needs to be scrapped again, to think these false knights stand on an equal footing with the likes of Sir edmund hillary, these false knight who were knighted for doing their jobs (or playing well paid sports) or through tokens amounts at charities or played golf with the right people instead of being leaders for our nation, I think we need to be a lot more careful who we honor and never have another Mr jones.

      • Hornet 4.1.1

        Personally I don’t think he should have received a knighthood in the first place, but some of the reaction has been near hysterical, and it just encourages him.

        • Leonhart Hunt 4.1.1.1

          didn’t labour scrap knighthoods then national brought them back, now would be a really good time for a binding referendum with an additional clause that sates only another referendum can bring back knighthoods (to stop national starting the whole thing up again)

          • Hornet 4.1.1.1.1

            It’s not knighthoods I have a problem with. It’s wealthy business and sports people receiving them, when so many do so much more for society with little or no recognition.

            • Matthew Whitehead 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Yep, it’s the problem with having an honours system at all when a party like National gets to be involved in handing them out, of course.

              Not that Labour’s perfect either, they love to give their own the nod.

              • Hornet

                Yes, true that. Perhaps the answer is an independent honours/titles committee, with no (declared) political affiliations?

                • Matthew Whitehead

                  Possibly, that would be a start.

                  The method I always had for preventing political cronyism in honours was that there should be cross-party consensus on all former politicians, although applying consensus to it could work in general as well as nonpartisanship.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Nah, get the political affiliations out in the open, by (say) a committee appointed by Parliament, but outlaw any MP from nominating or voting for a member of their own party.

                  Plus each party can veto one potential recipient per honour per year.

                  That kind of thing.

              • smilin

                the monarchy died in 1945
                There has never been a need for it since and all its trappings
                And anyone who deserved a gong either died in the service of others or refused it out genuine humility.
                Not like some of the recent troughers who got us into their zionist wars and created the large under class in nz to get what they think their pain in the arse existence is worth

              • Planet Earth

                Quite so Matthew.
                Sir Bob Jones knighted 1989 – party in Government, Labour. Possibly for taking votes off Muldoon’s National in 1984 and helping Lange’s Labour to win the election.
                Labour definitely has form here.

                • Matthew Whitehead

                  You know, I didn’t even consider looking back as to who knighted him, but that makes it even worse. Gross.

              • alwyn

                You are aware I suppose that it was Labour who awarded the knighthood to Sir Bob? Presumably the regard him as one of theirs.
                I suppose he has done what they all wish they could do. Son of a welder living in a state house who was successful.

                Can we all have our own little lists of people we would like to have stripped of honours?
                I’d start with Sir Michael Cullen. Off with his head.

                • Matthew Whitehead

                  Firstly, while I support the sentiment of not wanting national embarrassments like Bob to be honoured, again, this isn’t really what the post is about. It’s about whether he should be able to sue people for calling him out as having participated in hate speech, when that is actually a reasonable comment and critique upon his articles.

                  And what did Sir Cullen ever do to you, eh? Unless you’re a fan of Peters and disliked his constant mockery of him, (he apparently cracked a really good joke about taking selfies with a flip-top phone needing you to turn the device around back in the day when he saw the elevator doors closing on Winston while he was reading his texts, and it was somewhat of a hobby of his to do that sort of thing) I can’t think of anything particularly on the scale of national-level dishonour that he ever did.

                  • alwyn

                    A fan of Peters?
                    Wash out your mouth sir. The thought of sucking up to Peters makes me feel suddenly very ill.

                    My feelings about Winston Peters are the same as the ones I hold about Michael Cullen. I believe they both let down their country.
                    I’m sure you know the tale of Tom Browns translation of the thirty second epigram of Martial.
                    If it has momentarily slipped your mind it goes.
                    “Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare;
                    Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te.”
                    Brown translated this as
                    “I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
                    The reason why – I cannot tell;
                    But this I know, and know full well,
                    I do not like thee, Doctor Fell”.
                    It seems very appropriate to apply it to many politicians doesn’t it?

                    The main political user of suing people for defamation, which seems to be what Jones is talking about was David Lange.
                    He regularly threatened publications with his claims. They would tend to settle because that was a great deal cheaper than fighting the case.
                    Then North and South fought the case all the way. I understand, and note that I am not a lawyer, that the final Court decision was that the defence available in comments about a politician were in fact very wide.
                    I’m sure Mickysavage could expand on the matter.
                    I’m not sure that a Court would rule that Jones was in Lange’s position of course. It would be hard to describe his as a politician wouldn’t it?
                    That was Lange’s last claim, and a nasty little dent in his income.

                • tracey

                  alwyn

                  Can you post a recent post by Cullen that is racist and divisive? Thanks in advance

                  • alwyn

                    You will of course have noted I never made any sort of claim that Mick was racist. He was certainly pretty divisive on the other hand.
                    Why does it have to be “recent” as you ask. I don’t think he ever deserved a knighthood in the first place and it is never to late to correct a mistake, is it?

          • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.1.1.2

            If a referendum is the answer the question is wrong.

            Strengthen the ‘rules of evidence’ in Select Committee hearings. Make judicial review easier. Labour didn’t scrap honours they just scrapped titles.

            • Leonhart Hunt 4.1.1.1.2.1

              but no matter what regulations or tests you add they can be stripped away again by the stroke of a pen. If you get the public involved then it becomes political suicide to change it with large public backing (the power of a referendum)

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Like the power companies? We’re going to repossess them any day now, you betcha. So much for referenda.

                Politicians are impressed by two things: money, and people on the streets en masse. Well, they’re probably impressed by a few other things too, but you get my drift.

      • Matthew Whitehead 4.1.2

        Irony is very difficult to portray over text.

        Given the title of his recent piece, it was clear that his intention was to provoke a reaction, because he included the word “troll” in it. But he has a history of similar takes and implications of violence that indicate he’s not joking, and is engaging in generally dangerous rhetoric because even if he is joking, people will take him seriously. This is the “incitement” part of hate speech that Ms Maihi accused him of, and I hope for her sake if this does go to a Judge that they get that dilemma. There is no way to do such conservative/right-wing populism without it having this inciting effect, hence the advice never to punch down from comedians.

        And yeah, +100 on scrapping Knighthoods, let’s be a republic. 🙂

        • David Mac 4.1.2.1

          Yes, Bob started his piece ‘This is a troll’. I think he knew that some people would choose to ignore those words. Bob’s too old to fight with his fists but a desire to box never leaves a fighter.

          Yeah for a republic, nay for lots of the typical baggage.

          eg: If you haven’t got 20 million, forget a presidential campaign.

          • Matthew Whitehead 4.1.2.1.1

            The problem is saying you’re trolling people doesn’t make it okay, of course, and it doesn’t make it clear you don’t actually believe what you’re saying, despite what people think. There were people who would refuse to believe that Steven Colbert’s character was a parody, for instance, right up until his departure from Comedy Central.

            And yeah, I’m with you on a non-elected President with very few constitutional powers. NZ Republic has a very simple model where we basically just rename the Governor General the President, and have a proper vote on their appointment in Parliament if you want to avoid difficulties like extra election costs or the perils of an american-style executive presidency.

            • You_Fool 4.1.2.1.1.1

              I am actually for having a directly elected president, but with the same powers as the Governor General… term can either be 3 or 6 years so it coincides with normal elections so no real extra cost.

              Another way is to have an executive presidency and ministers that are not directly elected, but elected by parliament, but whoever is elected must be a sitting member of parliament and who then gives up their seat (and is not replaced) meaning that it is possible that a party winning the election must either give up the power to make laws to run the executive, or give the executive to the opposition to be able to make laws. 120 MPs, 21 removed to be the executive (President + 20 Ministers in cabinet), leaving the favoured 99 MPs in parliament. As bonus points, none can be electorate MPs as they would not be able to serve their constituency / need to focus on serving the NZ constituency. Any electorate MP chosen must resign from their seat to join the list (removing a list MP from that party) and a by-election. Hopefully the cost of by-elections would be blamed on power-hungry people taking easy routes into power without wanting to actually serve the people that elected them (but I am probably wrong with that bit)

              • Matthew Whitehead

                Urgh, an executive presidency is a terrible idea that nobody should be looking to ape, especially if they don’t get to appoint their own cabinet members freely and are forced to take MPs provided to them by Parliament.

                I don’t mind direct elections, but everyone mutters about adding another vote being complicated and costing a lot of money. I have faith New Zealanders could handle one more, but I think they’d rather avoid the trouble and have the office of a hypothetical President be a non-political one, so that the Head of State remained more of a constitutional role and a national figure of unity, like the Governor General is now.

                • greywarshark

                  Matthew W
                  “Head of State remained more of a constitutional role and a national figure of unity, like the Governor General is now.”
                  +1000

                • You_Fool

                  At least an executive president would mean we would have an actual definition of what the executive actually is and does and what powers they have. If you are going for a do-nothing type president, why even have it? The president needs to actually do something beyond smile and wave like the current GG

        • tracey 4.1.2.2

          His defence is right up there with “it is just banter” when Trump described his predatory behaviour toward a married woman and his practice of uninvitedly grabbing women’s p*&*%$#

          • Matthew Whitehead 4.1.2.2.1

            Except he’s the one threatening to take her to court, so he doesn’t need a defense if he goes through with it.

        • greywarshark 4.1.2.3

          Thanks for the cool critique Matthew. at 9.07pm 12/2. One of the points to be remembered is that he has often been rude before, is willing to take his aggravation to a physical response, tends to act rather uncaringly and is in a position where he can confront others with actual or threatened legal recourse (which is likely to be more expensive to those on limited incomes than himself).

          And the interesting thing is that he would be more likely to extract money from people who could argue a fair and true opinion, than someone who is owed money from a shyster operating in NZ. This person manages to avoid paying for his misdemeanours, playing the justice system like a sensitive violin, knowing when to quaver or quiver, ask for a re-hearing, and when to be not at home for service of documents.

          There ain’t no justice, seems very true comment but also an incoherent statement, but what there is can be hard to access and somewhat of a set of hurdles in a local common-unwealth games for ordinary people. Those at the top of the wealth ladder are fine provided they have good accountants who can show them the implications of everything so they don’t miss a step or lose a court case.

    • D'Esterre 4.2

      Hornet: “Some of the reaction to this latest piece by Jones (like a meaningless petition to remove his knighthood) is just giving the writing more oxygen.”

      Exactly.

  5. Ian 5

    Satire is still a fantastic art form . What a scream. I think Bob has a very strong case .He will be able to identify exactly where the hate is coming from.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      Given your recent protestations at what you see as unfair commentary towards farmers, which you’ve linked to suicides in the rural community, I wonder how you would react to a similar piece of “satire” about cockies.

      What form would it take? I’ll illustrate with a couple of examples (I’m not very good at satire).

      “Farmer-grade drinking fountain installed at new waste water treatment plant”…”Farmer employed as cleaner at Augean Stables, stables get dirtier”…

      Those would be pretty awful things to say in the context you’ve been informing us about, eh.

      And what Plutarch said about frogs, and what the OP says about ‘punching down’.

      • Matthew Whitehead 5.1.1

        To be fair, Bob probably thinks that it’s totally okay to incite farmers to suicide whenever they need drought protection, and that they’re dependent on welfare, if we’re to assume any consistency with his other pieces.

    • Matthew Whitehead 5.2

      Well yeah, perpetrators are very good at knowing whodunnit.

    • tracey 5.3

      He is suing her for defamation not the other way round. So, what is it she said that is false?

  6. David Mac 6

    Ha, I wonder if Bob saw this coming. What an old coot hoot. In his shoes I’d probably fly my jet over South Auckland and dump bales of money, but each to their own. My plan would get way more press but it would threaten Bob’s public nasty bastard persona. It’s a rich guy’s folly isn’t it?

    Provided it’s legal, of course we should all be able to say exactly what we want to. History indicates that clipping those rights prompts things to turn to shite.

    It’s a Bob folly.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    Knighthoods are based on a chivalric pretention, and Bob has fallen short of the requisite behavior to retain one. It’s a soft but real way of punishing unrepentant assholes, stripping them of undeserved honours. If we are going to have an honours system it should be real, so taking it off Bob is a step in the right direction.

    • Leonhart Hunt 7.1

      problem is that its Never happened in NZ before, this would be the first knighthood strip in history for New zealand.

      Which has to approved by the queen, only she has the power to remove a knighthood.

      But on the plus side, this could be a very good political move for the govt coalition, they can point to how they hold the “wealthy” accountable for racism years after this, which could be strong political move and might tip a re-election if they can continue on this track.

      Downside is, He has a lot of friends, hes wealthy and powerful and will take this to court for years and try to ruin anyone who comes in contact with this case.

      • Matthew Whitehead 7.1.1

        Constitutional convention in NZ is that the GG and Queen do whatever the government tell them to, (outside of election periods, anyway) so its unprecedentedness isn’t an obstacle so long as Ardern is willing to go there. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t, however, as so far her government is showing an abundance of caution in a lot of areas, possibly to its detriment.

        But if Ardern did want to do it, it’s within her power, claiming it’s up to the Queen is a dodge at best.

        • Leonhart Hunt 7.1.1.1

          maybe not, but winston first and the greens might be enough to tip the balance into getting labour to support it, we will have to wait and see.

          According to the change.org news updates 2 Mp’s are advising the creator of the petition on legal/political options and are looking at submitting a formal request to the PM.

          https://www.change.org/p/12963401/u/22372474?utm_medium=email&utm_source=petition_update&utm_campaign=251035&sfmc_tk=wb0jdpkZxLdxKIXtkqdWdVTZuo8JJt4yD%2fK1IL8G55Ge9M6xcbeUfgdC7m6cTybX&j=251035&sfmc_sub=602776580&l=32_HTML&u=45763988&mid=7259882&jb=80

        • Stuart Munro 7.1.1.2

          Precedents exist in Britain

          http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37714540

          Though in most cases they are not close parallels, they do do it reasonably often.

          The real trick would be to petition the Queen – you can be sure she doesn’t want to have to answer for the misdeeds of someone who should be behaving better.

          • Leonhart Hunt 7.1.1.2.1

            this would be the first for The Human Rights Act 1993 (NZ) article Section 61 based on that list.

          • Matthew Whitehead 7.1.1.2.2

            It shouldn’t even be as hard as in Britain, as the Queen actually has a bit more independence in how she acts over there with regards to certain institutions than she does in the New Zealand context. She would arguably be creating a constitutional crisis if she refused.

            I’ve noted your link at the bottom of the piece for new readers though, cheers.

            • Leonhart Hunt 7.1.1.2.2.1

              that is very true, we are part of a monarchy in name only. “IF” the queen decided to overturn a law/rule/policy that our leaders submitted without sufficient public support from NZ I think NZ as a republic is a real possibility.

              But staying as part of the british empire is beneficial for us with little downsides so why rock the boat?

              the British monarchy technically has the ability to overturn our laws/sanctions but in reality has no such power.

              • Matthew Whitehead

                1) There’s no more British Empire. It’s the Commonwealth now.

                2) You retain membership and all ties, regardless of your status with regards to independence, becoming a republic, etc… There are several ex-colonies that are now republics in the Commonwealth, and Britain wants a closer relationship with New Zealand post-Brexit anyway.

                3) The Queen technically has that ability, yes, but either she or the GG attempting to use it in ways other than our constitutional conventions allow would also cause a constitutional crisis.

    • David Mac 7.2

      Is that you Jesus?

  8. R.P. Mcmurphy 8

    he is a sad old man looking for some action.

    • Matthew Whitehead 8.1

      Which is why the court shouldn’t be forced to indulge cases like his, or Colin Craig’s, IMO.

      • dukeofurl 8.1.1

        isnt this a case where the Jameel ‘defence’ means it can be struck out at an early stage.
        Its a trivial case in that Jones wanted to cause a reaction and he got it, and now he just wants to play games

        [54] An abuse of process is of concern not merely to the parties but to
        the court. It is no longer the role of the court simply to provide a level
        playing field and to referee whatever game the parties choose to play upon it.
        The court is concerned to ensure that judicial and court resources are
        appropriately and proportionately used in accordance with the requirements
        of justice

        http://defamationupdate.co.nz/sites/all/pdf/2017/Opai-v-Culpan-2017-NZHC-1036.pdf

  9. Thinkerrr 9

    The man is an attention seeker, imo.

    Attention seekers have to increase their shock value, as the public get used to where they are at any particular time.

    The most hurtful (and, in my opinion, appropriate) thing would be to simply ignore attention-seekers.

    A few other Standardistas might remember Reggie Perrin of the 70s tv series. He did everything he could to shock people, but it was no use – because people knew what he was like, they expected it. So they paid him no mind and, despondent, he faked his own death for the second time and went off as a tramp again.

    • Matthew Whitehead 9.1

      Just to be clear: I’m not so much talking about Mr. Jones because I believe him worthy of debate, (I’d rather ignore him myself if given the option) I’m talking about him because he’s the latest person abusing a weakness in our law to persecute his enemies, and mockery is kinda necessary to give the full context on Bob.

  10. I hope you are starting a give a little page so He tangata can rally behind you in this struggle againsts this neo liberal bigot .
    This is exactly my point of the new zealand laws have been manipulated by the 1% to serve the 1% to dominate us the 99% ECO is Estactic that this is happening now.
    Ana to kai ka pai Rena Maihi

  11. Ross 11

    It works both ways. We recently had MP Louisa Wall go to the High Court over two cartoons that offended her sensibilities. How pathetic.

    • Ross 11.1

      The Court dismissed Wall’s complaint. Maybe she will appeal to the Supreme Court. Whatever, I wouldve thought that she might have more impprtant things to attend to.

      Free speech allows the flag to be burned at a dawn service on Anzac Day. That’s as it should be.

      http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1802/S00102/louisa-wall-v-fairfax-judgment.htm

      • dukeofurl 11.1.1

        You do realise it is Jones who has stated he is going to court over the actions of others ( The petition) which have offended his sensibilities !

        You seem to be confused over this.

        Its not a freedom of speech issue either, as it doesnt involve the government stopping Jones or the petitioners.
        The NBR excised their rights to not publish online and also say the print version was a mistake. All because it was offensive. They are of course entitled to shut Jones up at any time and for any reason as they dont have a ‘free speech’ obligation to him.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1.2

        There’s a bit more to it than that. From the judgement:

        Result

        We dismiss the appeal.

        In so doing, however, we consider it timely to repeat the observations of Thomas J in Awa v Independent News Auckland Ltd that:

        The law’s limits do not define community standards or civic responsibility. I would be disappointed if anything which this Court might say could be taken as indicative of what people of one race may feel at liberty to say and which people of the other are expected to brook.

        The unanimous view of both the Tribunal and this Panel’s members that the cartoons were objectively offensive should in our view be a cause for reflection by the respondents and their respective editorial teams.

      • greywarshark 11.1.3

        I can’t see that it is fair for people to deliberately taunt or harrass people about things that matter to them and particularly when it is done repetitively. The law needs an answer to stop that and the behaviour of people who would flagrantly abuse their rights to ‘ freedom for behaviour that others reasonably object to’. If people are constantly having to redress the balance by requesting some preventative action, this is another unfairness, ‘adding insult to injury’.

  12. Antoine 12

    I’ve read this twice and I’m still unsure what changes to defamation law you’re proposing.

    A.

    PS Stripping Jones’ knighthood, if it was possible, would certainly backfire. He would only be amused at the free publicity, and racist people would be outraged and rally to the cause.

  13. You_Fool 13

    I think you are on the wrong side of the defamation debate here (although I agree that if Bob Jones is an example of a knight, then there is something wrong with the knighthoods). The burden of proof does not lie with Bob, he hasn’t made a claim, the petition has so the burden of proof is on them to show that Bob is inciting hate crimes.

    That said this case is obviously frivolous as it doesn’t really harm Bob’s reputation as he has already set that permanently in stone as an offensive bully. The article was Bob Jones being Bob Jones (not that it makes it right).

    • Morrissey 13.1

      A Message from the Knights of the British Empire

      It has been brought to our attention that one “You_Fool” has written: “if Bob Jones is an example of a knight, then there is something wrong with the knighthoods.”

      We would like to point out that the rogue Bob Jones is an aberration, an abomination, an irritant, a boor, a bully,a misogynist, a racist, and a cad. An asshole, if one were to employ the vernacular. The rest of New Zealand’s, and indeed the Empire’s, knights, however, are men of the highest character. As one of our esteemed number said of himself some years ago, we are GOOD MEN.

      So let’s condemn Bob Jones by all means, but let us also praise good men and true, like the following exemplars of moral courage and intellectual excellence…..

      Sir Paul Holmes
      Sir Thomas Eichelbaum
      Sir James Savile
      Dame Denise L’Estrange-Corbet
      Sir Peter Leitch
      Sir Jeremiah Mateparae
      Sir John Key
      Sir Clive Woodward

    • Matthew Whitehead 13.2

      Go back and read the second part of the piece again, I’ll wait.

      Now when you’re done, you’ll note that my position wasn’t about what the law says now, although I did explain that a bit. It’s about the fact that the law is broken when people like Bob Jones or Colin Craig can bring these frivolous suits without knowing that they’ll be easily dismissed, and I want us to look at changing it, perhaps somewhat more towards the American model where it’s more difficult to sue people for defamation.

      As to the burden of proof- yes and no. The problem is the only defense we have for defamation once your words are established is one that puts all the burden on the defendant. That system means that people like Jones can bully people with suits. Having a defense that your comments were reasonable critique would make this case a slam-dunk if it’s brought to court, because the nature of her whole petition, in which the comments were made, was criticism of Bob’s conduct.

      • You_Fool 13.2.1

        Your position is still that the person being defamed has to prove the defamation, when it really should be seen as the person making the comments having to prove their comments are correct. It should be the person first making the statement that needs to back it up.

        It boils down to:

        1: You are a fat stinky liar
        2: Are not!
        1: Are too!
        2: Prove it!

        There should be no burden on #2 to prove that #1 said anything, #1 is the one making the statements that need to be backed up.

        I am not saying that Bob Jone’s case is not frivolous and the fact he can just march around pretending he is in the US and say he will sue everyone is not wrong. Even more so with the fact that he would be laughed out of court in the US with what he does, but that doesn’t mean that the burden of proof has to change, just that there needs to be a way of showing what slander is; calling for Bob to lose the Sir after he makes “a joke” is not slander… You do go over bits of that in your article, and I agree broadly with you, just not with changing the burden of proof.

        • Matthew Whitehead 13.2.1.1

          Yes, the way it works under the law is that when you claim there has been a crime you are asked to prove that there has been a crime.

          Right now, all you have to prove is that someone said something you don’t like, and that you can prove it’s wrong, the burden isn’t on you to prove malice or neglect on the defendant’s part, which is very hard to justify given the effect it has in terms of who brings cases based on that- it doesn’t seem to have lead to a better behaved media, it hasn’t lead to a “politer” society, whatever that means, it’s just resulted in people being bullied with frivolous lawsuits.

          If you look into the law, you will note the burden of proof is already on the plaintiff to establish that something has actually been said to a third party (so your example is a bit wrong, defamation and libel is for cases where you say “hey Bob, I hear Alice cheated on her husband,” and actually you knew she didn’t.

          What isn’t on the plaintiff is proving that the comments were unreasonable as commentary, made with no regard to the truth, or that the defendant knew they were a lie. These are necessary elements of defamation and should allow for a reasonable defense, that our law doesn’t require, hence why we so frequently have politicians suing and being sued under that law.

      • greywarshark 13.2.2

        I thought it was people with suits that can bully!

  14. Morrissey 14

    Surely this is a case of a frivolous and vexatious lawsuit, if ever there was one.

    • Leonhart Hunt 14.1

      not at all, even it it was intended as a joke, he did write what can easily be classed as “racism” holding people accountable for racism is not frivolous, you may laugh it off, “oh, it was a joke!” but others point to it and say, hey look bob thinks like this so its ok for us too. Subtle intentions are hard to define in print, Bob may think its a joke, NPR might have printed it as a joke but people will not see it as a joke, there’s even a term for it now “casual racism”

      – From racism “it stops with me campaign”
      “In many cases people do not recognise their words and deeds are racist. It’s simply seen as part of New Zealand culture to ‘take the piss’ out of people. I don’t see that casual racism, via ignorant commentary or jokes, is acceptable. People who perceive they have the right and luxury to engage in racist practices do not understand that they are adding to a lifetime of injury for those who have had to navigate racism.”

      • Morrissey 14.1.1

        By “frivolous and vexatious” I was referring to that sad old racist suing the petition organizers. I should have made my writing clearer. Sorry about that.

        Here’s some more on that old boor, if you can stand it. He was throwing around threats to sue back in 2013….

        Perhaps the funniest thing Sir Robert says all night—funny because he is absolutely serious—is when he utters a threat: “You all heard that, there’s a defamation suit going out next week!” and then waves his arms in angry dismissal of the whole assembly. For a more disturbing display of pathetic, even heart-rending anger, you’d have to watch Twelfth Night, with the humiliated Malvolio swearing, “I’ll be revenged on the lot o’ you!”

        http://morrisseybreen.blogspot.co.nz/2018/01/womans-mag-editor-humiliates-dyspeptic.html

  15. tracey 15

    She used his knighthood to raise the issue of his behaviour. I do not believe she seriously thought she would get it revoked. The wider issue is what kinds of people do we appoint? Service to Business? he made a whopping great profit for himself. Great stuff but not worthy of our highest award. Now, the woman who opened that shop and raises 30+ k a year for charity…

  16. repateet 16

    Defamation laws and suing? We should all sue Jones for being such a silly prick.

  17. Et Tu Brute 17

    This exact case aside, I almost feel like we should make things easier and lower the penalties. Defamation cases are a rich person’s sport; a way for the powerful to silence the weak, or the way for the wrong to silence the right. You need deep pockets to engage in it, and for those who *have* been wronged, but have no lawyer on speed dial, the options are limited. A good defamation trial can easily set you back the best part of $100,000.

    The Harmful Digital Communications Act is a step in the right direction. But that only covers bullying (including defamation) online. We need a cross between the Harmful Digital Communications Act/Family Court/ERA in their more comparative ease of access and lesser sanctions in dealing with defamation on a much simpler level, with default redress being a public apology and correction ordered by the courts, and perhaps in extreme cases a financial award. But not the situation where right or wrong, the likes of Maihi would have to fork out tens of thousands in legal fees and then end with a settlement.

    • tracey 17.1

      This ^^^^^^^

      Well bloody said

    • Ross 17.2

      Or we could stand side by side with the person who’s offended us and say they have the right to speak freely (well, mostly).

      • One Anonymous Bloke 17.2.1

        Defamation concerns reputation, not feelings.

        • Ross 17.2.1.1

          I didnt realise anyone had been defamed. Although I do agree with Jones that what he said isnt hate speech and doesnt even come close.

          I note that the term hate speech is easy to throw around but not so easy to prove. It’s similar to calling a critic of Israel an anti-semite. Disappointing.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 17.2.1.1.1

            What do you think Jones is posturing to sue Renae Maihi for if not defamation?

            I suspect he’s making empty threats though, as with Jonathon King. Bullies are cowards: that’s my take on Jones.

            • Ross 17.2.1.1.1.1

              I agree with you about Jones but Maihi isnt blameless either. This has nothing to do with hate speech. I note that the PM has said she has no intention of stripping Jones of his knighthood.

              • Matthew Whitehead

                Actually a fair amount of academics with relevant experience disagree and say that racism is itself hate speech and that they feel his column qualifies. It’s an arguable case at worst, but that argument should be in the public arena, not the courts, IMO.

            • Matthew Whitehead 17.2.1.1.1.2

              It might be an empty threat. It might be one he goes through with but loses. What disturbs me is that there’s a very real chance that, while people like you or I might agree with what Renae said, the court could reasonably rule that his comments weren’t hate speech and that she’s defamed him, which would be an absolute travesty of justice, and it’s indicative of the larger history of frivolous and contentious defamation cases- the Hagemanns, Craig, etc…

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Oh it’s definitely bullying, although I think the judgement in Wall vs. Fairfax (above at 11.1.2) undermines your conclusion that the courts would rule against Renae Maihi.

                The judgement discusses satire, and indicates that the Nisbet cartoons could be read as such. Wall’s appeal was dismissed, and yet Muir J, Hickey and Neeson go on to say:

                I would be disappointed if anything which this Court might say could be taken as indicative of what people of one race may feel at liberty to say and which people of the other are expected to brook

                the cartoons were objectively offensive … a cause for reflection by the respondents and their respective editorial teams.

                I can’t see Jones having a shit-show of winning his case. In the event that he did, I’d expect a compensatory amount of $1.

                He’d laugh, I suppose, and the real issue here is the chilling effect the current law can impose.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Craig etc…

                If you mean Colin Craig I (partly) disagree. Jordan ‘I’ll have to take one for the team to get the details out of her’ Williams isn’t some random pleb like me, he’s part of a political organisation with a specific bias and a track record of low ethical standards.

                The other guy, sure, Colin should’ve let that slide.

            • alwyn 17.2.1.1.1.3

              You mean he is like Winston Peters?
              Winston has been dribbling on about how he is going to sue various National figures and Public Servants.
              In fact he has, although continuing to make threats, withdrawn his proposed action.
              Your last sentence seems a reasonable one to describe him.
              ” Bullies are cowards: that’s my take on Peters”.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                No. Winston is threatening to sue political opponents who have their very own Shadow Cabinet Club, and recently documented history of gutter ethics.

                These are not random plebs: the law exists to protect us from the likes of National Party MPs and their owners.

                So when it comes to Winston vs. Trash, “fight, you bastards!”

                • alwyn

                  Fair enough. I think the description of Winston Peters is fair but the people he is threatening to sue aren’t the same as Jones target.
                  I don’t agree with the rest of your description of course.

    • Matthew Whitehead 17.3

      I would agree with you that as a general principle access to justice for people without money should be easier.

      I don’t think making the law even more permissive would have that effect. In reality what would likely happen is that rich people would be able to be litigious bullies to an even greater degree, and poor people would have the same troubles accessing the system for help.

  18. Cemetery Jones 18

    I definitely prefer the Bob Jones who punched right to the Bob Jones who punched down. I’m not a lawyer but if this didn’t meet your criteria for hate speech, I fail to see how this most recent trolling excursion will either:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=144773

    ^tfw you recall how easily Bob Jones triggered right wing economics professors

  19. Jackel 19

    Ok, so the point is no one needs to feel that they are any less of a human being because an old dinosaur from the 80s decides to be cheap with his lips. If we on the left stand for anything it’s a fair go.

    • Matthew Whitehead 19.1

      That, and that dinosaurs with money shouldn’t be suing people to bully them into shutting up about legitimate points of debate and criticism.

    • alwyn 19.2

      ” If we on the left stand for anything it’s a fair go.”.
      Thank you. You have given me the best laugh I have had for ages.
      That claim really is hilarious.

  20. Dave Winters 20

    I see people wearing ‘Maori First!’ or ‘Maori and Proud!’ t-shirts. I wonder, the meaning behind this if the word is replaced with any ‘non-Maori’ term. At which point is racism actually defined? Promoting any ‘race’ as being above any other surely is just plain ‘ol fashioned simple minded fashioned bigotry.

    I can’t help but think that Billy T James is laughing away somewhere about this whole thing. Perhaps, Maihi needs to watch his History of NZ. Proper satire in there, ripping up every race.

    • Matthew Whitehead 20.1

      Racism requires structural discrimination, Dave. Otherwise it’s just bigotry, which is annoying but not especially harmful, and at least one of those shirts wouldn’t even qualify as bigotry.

      Renae is a woman, which you would know if you had read anything about this situation.

      Satire requires a certain amount of winking going on to establish that either:
      a) You are making fun of people who you don’t really blame for their problems personally because other, more powerful forces are at work.
      b) You are making fun of the people really at fault by only pretending to support them in a ridiculous way.

      Bob Jones did neither, these were clearly his real views, especially in the context of the piece that came before, (but marked as “trolling” because he knew they were too extreme) and if you think he does satire, I’m afraid you wouldn’t notice it if real satire came up behind you and bit you on the bum. 🙂

      • D'Esterre 20.1.1

        Matthew Whitehead: “Racism requires structural discrimination, Dave. Otherwise it’s just bigotry, which is annoying but not especially harmful, and at least one of those shirts wouldn’t even qualify as bigotry.”

        Anent Bob Jones’s NBR article, this is precisely the situation that applies. His views are those of an individual, and, no matter how offensive people find them, they don’t meet the test of either racism or hate speech. Whatever that is…

        “Bob Jones did neither, these were clearly his real views, especially in the context of the piece that came before, (but marked as “trolling” because he knew they were too extreme)”

        I’ve read Jones’s piece. It’s so ridiculous, it made me laugh. But – as with most of his earlier rants – I don’t take it seriously. He was obviously taking the mickey, as he’s done over countless issues for all of my adult life.

        Jones is an equal-opportunities mickey-taker: not many sacred cows have escaped his attention over the years.

        I’d add that, were it not for some earnest commentators having an attack of righteous indignation over his article, most of us would have been blissfully unaware of it. Talk about giving him free publicity….

        This is a view with which I have some sympathy:
        https://i.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/101256332/social-medias-attack-on-freedom

        In this household, we’ve been subject to casual bigotry, of the sort with which most NZers see nothing wrong. It’s part of the human condition: we’re a groupish species and prefer to associate with people who share our culture, skin colour and so on

        We have free speech in this country. I don’t subscribe to Jones’s views, but he’s entitled to express them.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 20.1.1.1

          No-one has threatened Jones’ freedom of speech. Equally, no-one (in this case the NBR) is obliged to publish them either. And everyone is entitled to express how they feel about them, including the view that they amount to hate speech, or fighting talk, if you prefer.

          I’ve already cited the decision in Wall vs. Fairfax in this thread so I won’t repeat myself: it’s well worth reading if you want a good look at the issues as the judiciary sees them.

  21. D'Esterre 21

    Matthew Whitehead: “Racism requires structural discrimination, Dave. Otherwise it’s just bigotry, which is annoying but not especially harmful, and at least one of those shirts wouldn’t even qualify as bigotry.”

    Anent Bob Jones’s NBR article, this is precisely the situation that applies. His views are those of an individual, and, no matter how offensive people find them, they don’t meet the test of either racism or hate speech. Whatever that is…

    “Bob Jones did neither, these were clearly his real views, especially in the context of the piece that came before, (but marked as “trolling” because he knew they were too extreme)”

    I’ve read Jones’s piece. It’s so ridiculous, it made me laugh. But – as with most of his earlier rants – I don’t take it seriously. He was obviously taking the mickey, as he’s done over countless issues for all of my adult life.

    Jones is an equal-opportunities mickey-taker: not many sacred cows have escaped his attention over the years.

    I’d add that, were it not for some earnest commentators having an attack of righteous indignation over his article, most of us would have been blissfully unaware of it. Talk about giving him free publicity….

    This is a view with which I have some sympathy:
    https://i.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/101256332/social-medias-attack-on-freedom

    In this household, we’ve been subject to casual bigotry, of the sort with which most NZers see nothing wrong. It’s part of the human condition: we’re a groupish species and prefer to associate with people who share our culture, skin colour and so on. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

    We have free speech in this country. I don’t subscribe to Jones’s views, but he’s entitled to express them.

    I don’t think he ought to have a knighthood, either, though not for his lengthy history of curmudgeonliness, but rather because nobody should get a gong for doing their job or for making lots of money, or for being good at sport. We should be honouring those otherwise unacknowledged but heroic people, who devote their lives to their disabled children, or to others, without monetary reward.

    So: I won’t be signing that petition.

    • Sacha 21.1

      “Jones is an equal-opportunities mickey-taker: not many sacred cows have escaped his attention over the years.”

      Do point us to his columns attacking rich old white men, eh.

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