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New Oamaru Hearing Court opens

Hon Chester Borrows
Minister for Courts

7 August 2014

New Oamaru Hearing Court opens

Court services in Oamaru have a new home, with the official opening of the purpose-built Oamaru Hearing Court in Humber Street, Courts Minister Chester Borrows said today.

“This facility provides a cost-effective solution for court services in Oamaru,” says Mr Borrows.

“While our first choice was always to get back into the old courthouse, this facility balances our need to be responsible in the way we spend taxpayer money with the need to provide a suitable venue for court.”

The new hearing court has been constructed from a number of prefabricated buildings and includes a courtroom, a public waiting room and a holding cell. That last feature is especially important, as holding cell facilities for prisoners were not available at the Opera House, where hearings have been held over the past two years.

“I would like to acknowledge the Oamaru Licensing Trust for their support in providing the site, the Waitaki District Council for assisting the Ministry through the design and build process, and the contractors who pulled this facility together in a relatively short period of time,” says Mr Borrows.

“I would also like to thank court staff, the judiciary, local lawyers, Police and Corrections staff, and other court users for their support and patience since seismic factors forced us to close the old Oamaru Courthouse in 2012.

“I’m very pleased with the way the Ministry has worked to minimise disruptions to court services and I’m excited to say that the wait is over and this new facility is ready to go. I’m sure the new Oamaru Hearing Court will serve the Oamaru community extremely well.”

The old category 1 listed Oamaru Courthouse has been transferred to Land Information New Zealand, which is currently considering its disposal in line with the requirements of the Public Works Act and the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act.

“We did investigate the possibility of bringing the old building up to the required standards of earthquake safety, but the costs – estimated at between $1 million and $2 million - were prohibitive.”

Since 2006, there has been a 20 per cent decrease in the work load for Oamaru court and a 30 per cent drop in recorded crime in the Southern region.

“The Government needs to focus investment where there is high demand, including earthquake strengthening Dunedin’s category 1 historic place courthouse, and where we can provide better services for the public. In that context we couldn’t justify investing millions of dollars in a court with a small and declining workload, which is used less than one day a week on average, and where another solution was available,” says Mr Borrows.

The first hearings in the new Oamaru District Court will be held on 13 August 2014.

ENDS

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