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Opening of new Ruatoria Courts & Services Centre

Hon Rick Barker

Speech for opening of new Ruatoria Courts Hearing and Heartland Services Centre


Tena koutou rau rangatira ma
Tuatahi e mihi tenei ki a koutou te mana o te whenua
Ngati Porou tangata
E whakatau ana ki a tatou kua eke mai nei
i runga i te kaupapa o te ra.
No reira tena koutou

Tuarua ki a tatou katoa
kua hui hui mai nei
Tena tatou katoa.

Greetings to you all
First, I acknowledge you the people who have mana over this area
The people of Ngati Porou
For welcoming all of us who have gathered here on this occasion.
Greetings to you.

Second, to all of us
Who have gathered here
Greetings to us all


His Honour Judge James Rota
Justices of the Peace
Members of the legal profession
Hon Parekura Horomia, Minister of Maori Affairs
Janet Mackey, Member for East Coast
Gisborne District Councilors
Justice sector representatives
Ministry of Justice and Heartland Services managers and staff


It is my great pleasure to be here today to officially open the new Ruatoria courthouse and Heartland Services Centre.

This fine facility represents arguably the most innovative approach in New Zealand to providing court services to a small rural community.

Not only does this courthouse ensure local cases are heard in the local community, but it also provides one-stop-shop access to many other government services under the Heartland Services initiative - which sees agencies working together to deliver better services to small communities.

In addition to the monthly court hearings, we have eleven government agencies using the centre.

And community groups are starting to use the centre for their hui. I'm told Kaumatua hold their monthly meetings here, and the sound of 'line dancing' is often heard from the 'over-sixties' club.

This must be the only courtroom in the world where you will see the serious solemnity and ceremony of the Court one day and 'line dancing' the next!

When government looked at replacing the old courthouse burnt down in 1985, we wanted to ensure the community was involved at every stage.

Community hui were held and Te Runanga O Ngati Porou organised a community survey that outlined replacement proposal and asked people to choose from two preferred sites - this one and the land between the supermarket and the old Post Office.

166 people preferred this site compared to 101 who favoured the other site.

I think everyone preferred a new courthouse to the old St John's Ambulance Hall, which was used as the temporary courthouse from 1985 to last year. 'Temporary' - in this case - actually meant 17 years.

We owe a great deal to the St John's for their support and patience, which is very much appreciated.

Of course, the stories are legend of court users riding up to the St Johns Hall on horseback, leaving the horse to graze in the yard at the side of the Hall while in court, then riding off into the sunset.

If there is one drawback to this magnificent new courthouse, it would be that there is no hitching rail or water trough for the horses!

This government's determination to keep essential services in smaller communities was a major driver behind the decision in February 2001 to build a new courthouse in Ruatoria.

Designs were finalised, tenders called and building commenced in July 2002.

One month from completion the new building was struck by arson, causing nearly $300,000 in damage, delaying operations by three months and contributing to the need for the two metre high perimeter fence you see around us today.

With that set-back behind us, the courthouse held its first sitting in December last year. Response from the community and court users has been generally very favourable.

The marae-based design and features including retractable furniture enabling the court to be easily 'cleared' for other uses has just seen the courthouse win a New Zealand Institute of Architects/Resene design award in the community/cultural sector.

The Award recognises the "successful establishment of a multi-purpose community facility achieving the exacting requirements of the judicial system in a building form thoroughly appropriate to this remote community".

The competition judges were particularly taken with the way what can be a "serious and intimidating courtroom" could be so easily dismantled to create a simple and lively community space, with style and comfort.

Our thanks go to the architect Paris Magdelinos and to First Light Constrution.

Today's official opening is special event.

The future of a court in Ruatoria was in doubt following the 1985 fire. Previous governments did not attach the same importance to the delivery of justice at the local level. But with a keen will, and the support and involvement of this community, we now have a facility that everyone can be proud of - and feel a real sense of ownership in.

As Minister for Courts, I am certainly proud of the final result.

It gives me great pleasure to declare the Ruatoria courthouse and Heartland Services Centre officially open.

Na reira, Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.


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