Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt says being cleared of defamation is a ground-breaking verdict which sets a new bar for local government politics.
A jury on Friday found Mr Shadbolt and the Southland Times newspaper did not defame councillor Karen Arnold in a series of columns in 2014 and 2015.
Ms Arnold had argued she was portrayed by the mayor in the columns as unprofessional and a leaker of confidential documents.
Mr Shadbolt said the verdict was highly significant for freedom of speech.
"If we really want to criticise our mayors or if our mayors want to cristicise their councillors, it certainly gives a lot more room for them to do that and I think as a result it will lead to much healthier debate around the council table."
Mr Shadbolt said his case was the local government equivalent of the David Lange defamation case 20 years ago.
Ms Arnold said the court has given her permission to apply to have the verdict set aside.