A Wellington café owner says a message of 'thanks' to Green Party MP Jeanette Fitzsimons that caused outrage online has been misinterpreted.
Jeanette Fitzsimons, who ushered the Greens into existence and led them into Parliament in the late 1990s, died last week after suffering a fall on the organic farm she owned.
Her passing was mourned by political friends and foes alike, praising her dedication to the environment above all else.
Warren Johnson, owner of Café Villa in Ngaio, Wellington, marked it with a message on a blackboard that graces the side of the building facing the street, writing: "Jeanette Fitzsimons has died. Thank you."
Some locals were horrified.
"Whatever your political persuasion, this is unacceptable," wrote Twitter user @irritable_ish, with a photo of the blackboard.
"What on earth were you thinking, Café Villa in Ngaio? Cold, mean, crass."
Another user, @whaeavee, called it "abhorrent. They posted a photo of a previous message the café had put out about Brexit, in the same handwriting, which read: "Our looney left can't accept that the Brits know best."
"Shame on you Café Villa. You bring shame on Wellington. I'll have my long black elsewhere."
Other social media users were shocked.
"They're always putting up horrible signs like this," said Justin Hoenke. "And their scones are pretty terrible as well. We stay away."
"The graceless prat who owns the place has been regaling Ngaio with his idiocy for years and is why I've refused to support the café," wrote Dave Chowdhury.
One Twitter user pointed out the irony in Café Villa's backing of Brexit, "when café is French and Villa is Spanish".
Johnson said he's been getting threats and "hate speech" ever since he put the message up on Friday.
"Overnight we've had all the hate speech - 'f**k off and die' sort of thing - in emails."
He told Newshub it's all been a misunderstanding - he was trying to thank Fitzsimons "for her service".
"One lady later in the day came in and said, 'I'm offended by that! You are being thankful that she's dead.' That is utter rubbish of course. We tried to apologise to her but she would not listen. She stormed out in a huff.
"We went out, we rubbed the blackboard off. Yesterday there was a 'hate speech' thing on the local Ngaio Facebook page just about the whole day.
"People rang me - every time I talked to them, it was as good as gold. They understood where I was coming from. I was trying to say 'thank you' to a person who had done many years of hard work for us."
He said the "same person" who initially complained about the message has "done it before".
Fitzsimons, 75, led the Green Party between 1995 and 2009. She remains the only one of its MPs to ever win an electorate seat.
Despite the tension between the modern Green Party and National, MPs from the latter were saddened to hear of her passing.
"Had huge respect for Jeanette. She was a fierce yet humble fighter for improving our environment," said Chris Bishop.
"Incredibly sad news this morning about Jeanette Fitzsimons' passing," said Dan Bidois. "She was a person of incredible integrity and humility. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones at this time."