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New North Shore District Court At Albany Opening

Friday 14 September 2001
Embargoed until 2.00pm Hon Matt Robson Speech Notes

Official Opening Of The New North Shore District Court At Albany

E nga rangatira me nga iwi,
Te iti, te rahi, te katoa
Tena koutou

E nga mate huhua.
Moe wairua, moe marie nui.
Otia te po, nau mai te ao.

Kua hui mai tatou
Hei whakawhiti mai i te rangi
E whakatuwhera ai tenei pou whare

E nga Pou Ture o Te RakiPaeWhenua,
Tena koutou!
Ko to kaupapa
Ko te wherawhera I nga korero me nga titiro,
Me te tuku I te whakapae
Tu mai, tu tonu ra!

Parliamentary colleagues; Chief District Court Judge Carruthers and members of the Judiciary; Your Worship the Mayor; Members of the legal profession; Honoured guests.

It’s a great pleasure to be here to officially open the new North Shore District Court at Albany.

Although this court has been operating since the closure of the Takapuna court in mid August, it is important to come together and officially mark the transition with due ceremony.

Just before Christmas last year, I was in South Auckland to open the new Manukau District Court.

Georgina te Heuheu, my predecessor as Minister for Courts, joined me in unveiling the opening plaque.

That joint unveiling was an acknowledgment of the neutrality of the court system and of the diverse community served by the courts. And it was also recognition that we were all there to celebrate a fine new community facility.

I hope she will join me once again today.

Staff tribute
First, I want to pay a special tribute to the North Shore court community - court staff, court users, lawyers, agencies, Judges, Justices of the Peace, Referees.

You were all inconvenienced, to some degree, in the transition to this magnificent new facility. I thank you for your patience and tolerance – and for your dedication and professionalism.

I also want to acknowledge the skill and tenacity of those who built this courthouse, and the departmental staff who delivered the project on time and on budget.

You will all agree that the result has been worth it - a court facility designed specifically to meet local needs - and a far cry from the cramped, overcrowded and tired facilities left behind.

This new courthouse represents a very significant investment - around $18 million in total. An investment that, as everyone involved will tell you, not just here but around the country, has been a long time coming.

Today, people are demanding much higher standards from a modern public service, and this courthouse symbolises that increasing sophistication.

The Labour Alliance Coalition Government accepts the need to invest to rebuild a largely neglected physical infrastructure.

Refurbishment work is planned for Nelson and Greymouth.

The historic Dunedin courthouse, said to be one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Dunedin, if not the country, is being refurbished at the cost of $11 million.

New court hearing centres are being built at Ruatoria and Dargaville.

Other court projects around the country compete for limited resources.

Our aim is to provide court facilities that meet the needs of local people.

Well designed and modern court facilities mean a more friendly environment for the Judiciary, court staff and court users alike, more efficient processing of cases, and better service for the community.

Investment and higher standards goes beyond buildings.

Incremental modernisation of the court system has been underway since the Department for Courts was established in 1995.

The court system is inherently conservative. Its processes have been built up over many years and in some cases are based on fundamental concepts of justice dating back hundreds of years.

The next phase of the modernisation, which gets underway later this year, involves introducing case management into court registries.

Fines collection will be further improved through the introduction of new structures and systems.

Modernisation will deliver better administration, better technology and better service.

The aim is to provide high quality, responsive and cost effective court services to court users and the community.

Restorative Justice
Government is investing in innovation in other ways.

Many of you are aware that restorative justice initiatives are being developed through our court system.

Pilot projects are underway at Auckland, Waitakere, Hamilton and Dunedin.

The first referrals are being made now, and the first restorative justice conferences will be held in a month or so.

Getting people together to sort things out is something we do all the time.

The South Pacific offers living examples of a system of justice that heals the victim and that both punishes and reintegrates the offender.

Maori families gather on marae to settle disputes, aiming to reach a solution that satisfies both sides.

I have received enthusiastic backing of restorative justice from Maori and from Pacific peoples.

I have received solid international interest and endorsement.

American prosecutor Donald Schmid, recently in New Zealand to look at the court-referred pilot project, remarked that restorative justice "works because it gives new voices to victims, to offenders and to the community because the participants feel a greater sense of ownership of the process and of the outcomes that are produced."

The great strength of restorative justice is that it comes from the community. Pioneers around the country have worked for years delivering successful schemes with limited resources. The court-referred pilot project is a tribute to their hard work and forbearance.

Evaluation of the pilots and more investment will ensure their eventual extension throughout the country.

Review of courts
Perhaps the most far-reaching initiative of all is the Review of Courts.

Government has mandated the Law Commission to put the structure of our court system under the microscope.

The review will look to see whether in a new millennium the existing systems and structures are the most appropriate from the community’s point of view to provide civil and criminal justice.

The terms of reference are broad - from the volume and nature of work undertaken by the courts - to deciding where original jurisdiction should be vested - to the rights of appeal from the District and High Courts.

The review will pay particular regard to the statutory obligations of the courts to take account of te ao Maori – the Maori dimension – and the multi-cultural character of New Zealand society.

The Law Commission intends publishing a preliminary paper identifying areas of change and possible alternatives by April next year and a final report by the end of March 2003 – and intends to consult widely.

My colleague, the Attorney General, is also considering issues of final appeal.

Courts and the community
But in the end, a building is only bricks and mortar, new technology and systems are only tools, and new structures are only a framework.

It is the people, of course, who count.

Our communities are changing. Those changes demand a new responsiveness from all of us, including Government.

And as I have outlined, even in institutions of great formality and tradition, such as the courts, this change is happening.

The court system is in a period of change, perhaps profound change.

That will place demands on us all.

We must never lose sight of the fact that the court system is a vital part of our community, and our community is an integral part of our court system.

Courts are often places fraught with the drama of life. Many people come here in stressful, even traumatic circumstances.

We must strive to ensure no gulf exists between communities and the courts - between people and a system which sometimes holds elements of their lives and futures in the balance.

Government accepts that challenge. You, as our partners in the court system, must accept that challenge too.

I can think of no better metaphor for this challenge, for the transformation of the courts system, than this new courthouse itself.

It gives me great pleasure to declare the North Shore District Court at Albany officially open.

Na reira e te iwi,
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

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