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Under wraps ... Oamaru's historic courthouse is undergoing earthquake strengthening work, expected to be completed in six months. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

There’s a cover-up going on at Oamaru’s historic courthouse, but it’s got nothing to do with a crime being committed.

Work to strengthen the 1883 Thames St courthouse started last month.

The building was closed in late 2011 after being identified as earthquake-prone, which resulted in court services being relocated to the Oamaru Opera House and then to a portable facility known as the “porta-court” in Humber St in 2014.

Scaffolding has been erected along each of the four sides of the Oamaru stone building, which has been wrapped with white plastic to protect it from the elements, stop dust from spreading while work was taking place and minimise disruption to neighbouring properties, which included the Oamaru Opera House and Fat Sally’s Pub and Restaurant.

The wrap was necessary as part of the work involved sections of the roof and other areas being opened and exposed.

It was expected the work, which involved metal rods and plates being installed at various points around the building, would up to take six months to complete.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the strengthening work, being carried out by Breen Construction Ltd, had progressed according to plan so far.

“It’s looking good and certainly stands out on the streetscape now and certainly will as we do the rest of the building.”

After long negotiations, an agreement was reached between the council and the Ministry of Justice in 2016 that resulted in the council taking ownership of the building and leasing it back to the ministry so it could again serve as the Oamaru District Court.

While the exact cost of the work has not been disclosed, Mr Kircher said it was within the $900,000 figure the council had budgeted for the project and would be funded through its endowment fund. – Otago Daily Times