The Government will invest $100 million on a new courthouse in Tauranga which the Justice Minister Andrew Little says will be a model for future courthouse design.
Mr Little says the courthouse will be designed in partnership with iwi, the local community, the judiciary, the legal profession, court staff and other court users. It will draw on te ao Māori values, and directly address victims’ safety needs in the court building.
“Victims routinely provide feedback about the alienating and distressing environment of the courthouse. It’s time to re-think the traditional courthouse design,” Mr Little says.
In a LawPoints article this year Andrew Little said the Ministry of Justice recognised the wider issues with the courthouse, with a number of options being considered, from refurbishment to replacement.
Tauranga-based barrister and member of the Law Society’s Waikato Bay of Plenty branch Council, Rita Nabney, said that while the workload has changed considerably, due to Tauranga’s massive growth, the building itself hadn’t.
“As a criminal barrister I have to share the single unisex toilet with Crown witnesses. We also to share the very tiny facility for making tea, coffee etc.”
She said the increase in work put considerable pressure on the courthouse.
“The High Court only sits here occasionally with most Tauranga High Court matters being heard in Rotorua. We really need a permanent High Court as the Tauranga Crown, defence counsel and clients usually have to drive to Rotorua for a bail hearing. Now that’s got to be a huge waste of time and resource. No criminal high court sitting in Tauranga is a significant problem.”
'Delighted' at news
Following the announcement, Ms Nabney said she was “delighted”.
“I will be interested to see the detail of the design which I hope all stakeholders will be involved in,” she says.
Mr Little says the courthouse will be more family and victim friendly.
“Users of civil courts, such as the Family Court, routinely ask for more family friendly design and an environment that is more sensitive to the stress associated with family break-ups.
“This is an investment New Zealand must make to meet our commitment to put victims at the heart of the justice system.
“The new court will provide both victims and offenders and other users with access to wrap-around services which support, restore and rehabilitate, through the co-location of social sector agencies and the community on the premises.
“This is a major milestone in ensuring less offending, less reoffending, and fewer victims of crime who are better supported,” says Mr Little.
The announcement follows the release of reports from the Chief Victims Advisor, and from the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group – both of which called for a redesign of New Zealand’s courthouses.
The new facility is expected to be ready by mid-2025.