Sombre opening of new court

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The opening of the new courthouse yesterday was a sombre affair, with the district’s leaders openly stating their dissatisfaction with the temporary facility.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows was there to officially open the second-hand building, along with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and Mayor Gary Kircher.

Mr Kircher began his address by saying it was an “unusual situation” to celebrate the opening of a temporary building when we already had a very good building.

“But here we are,” he said.

The closing of the old courthouse in Thames St and the relocation of court services to the Humber St site had caused a lot of angst in the community, he told those present.

There had been some surprises along the way, he said, referring to the ministry handing over the historic courthouse building to LINZ for disposal.

“It now seems to have had its day in the ministry’s eyes.

“We implore you, minister, that if central government doesn’t want the building, we would appreciate your help in us acquiring it.”

Mr Borrows responded by saying that he understood why people were not happy with the outcome and that he would like nothing better than to help.

“I went to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice and said can we have $2 million to fix it – and they said no.”

Mr Borrows was referring to the cost estimate given to bring the courthouse building up to 67 per cent of national building standards under earthquake-prone building legislation.

He said courthouses had to be significantly safer than buildings used for other purposes, like cafes, because people were being summonds to appear.

The disposal of the old courthouse rested in the first instance with local iwi and if they didn’t want it, then the sale of the building would be opened up to other interested parties.

“Now if we were to slide it across to the local trust for a deal, then we would have to go back to iwi with the same deal,” Mr Borrows said.

“That’s why things are in a state of flux.”

Oamaru had been a victim of its own success and there was now 40 per cent less court work in the district, he said.

Lower usage also meant the Government could not justify spending $2m to make the building earthquake-safe.

He gave an assurance that there would be no further degradation of court services in Oamaru.

The first hearing is scheduled for August 13.

By LINDA MCCARTHY

PHOTO: LINDA MCCARTHY – At the opening of the new courthouse in Oamaru yesterday are, from left, Judge Joanna Maze, Courts Minister Chester Borrows and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher.