The High Court will determine whether a former senior local government leader acted against good faith by refusing to award contracts to a Northland earthworks and construction contractor.

Rintoul Group has taken former Far North District Council general manager of infrastructure and asset management Jacqueline Robson to court, claiming damages for 17 unsuccessful contracts over a two-year period.

Rintoul's pleading refers in particular to a contract for the upgrade of the Waimatenui Rd bridge in Kaikohe.

The company alleged Robson committed misfeasance in public office or wrongful exercise of lawful authority to ensure it would not be awarded any contracts.


Robson left FNDC in September 2017 and now works in the private sector.

She partly succeeded in her application to the High Court for summary judgment and to strike out Rintoul Group's claim for misfeasance in public office.

In a separate proceeding last year, Rintoul successfully sued FNDC for excluding it from four contracts for the Twin Coast Cycle Trail.

In the present case, Robson's evidence is she cannot be liable for wrongdoing because FNDC had sound, clear and transparent systems for awarding contracts that required tenders to be assessed objectively on their merits.

While she had a role in evaluating tenders, she said she generally did no more than act on recommendations of tender evaluation teams.

But her evidence is disputed by former FNDC manager infrastructure and capital works Casey de Pereira who said all tender evaluation reports required Robson's approval before contracts were awarded.

On one occasion, he said Robson told him she was not going to give Rintoul another contract in relation to the cycle track and in another case, she refused to change his recommendation for a contract to go to the company.

Robson's evidence in reply, noted by Associate Judge Roger Bell, tried to undermine de Pereira's testimony by referring to alleged unsatisfactory aspects of his employment— none of which were relevant.


The associate judge said there was a clear conflict between the evidence of Robson and de Pereira that would be resolved at trial.

"I cannot say on this application that his evidence is so tenuous that it cannot be accepted as showing an evidential basis for Rintoul's case.

"If his evidence as to the Waimatenui Rd bridge upgrade is accepted, it will also open the door for the other contracts for Rintoul," Associate Judge Bell said.

Although Robson's case was impressive and may prevail at trial, he said her difficulty was de Pereira's evidence that pointed to intentional conduct by her in deciding the tender of the bridge upgrade.

Robson's applications for strike out and summary judgment were struck out.

A trial date is yet to be set.