New Zealand Law Society - Former Greymouth courthouse for sale

Former Greymouth courthouse for sale

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The Ministry of Justice is managing the sale of the former Greymouth courthouse.

The building was constructed during a major period of government construction and stands testament to the importance of Greymouth and the West Coast in early 20th century New Zealand. The 105-year-old building is no longer used, and the ministry has put it up for sale.

“While the building has deteriorated and needs major refurbishment and strengthening, it has many possible uses and is looking for the right buyer who can see its potential,” says General Manager Commercial and Property Fraser Gibbs.

“Many original features of the building remain, including the rimu panelling in the courtroom, architraves, doors, cornices and skirting.

“The current courthouse was completed and has been in use since 2007 as the former courthouse no longer met the needs of the modern justice system or the Greymouth community.

The ministry says it is open to discussion with any genuine buyers. The land, which is leasehold to Mawhera Incorporated, is excluded from the sale.

Courthouse history

The single-storey courthouse built in imperial baroque style, was one of the last provincial buildings designed by then government architect John Campbell and has a Category 1 historic places listing from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Campbell was responsible for the design of government buildings throughout New Zealand for over thirty years until his retirement in 1922, but his Greymouth courthouse is unusual in that he modelled the design on a specific overseas building: the Law Courts and Municipal Buildings in Cardiff (designed by Stewart, Lanchester and Rickards in 1897; built 1901-1904).

By the time the foundation stone for the courthouse was laid in March 1912, there had already been almost 50 years of effort to enforce English/Pākehā law in the district.

William Horten Revell, former Inspector of Police in Timaru, was appointed Warden in 1865 and made Resident Magistrate in 1868, the same year that Greymouth became a separate municipality. By the end of 1868, three courts operated in Greymouth: the Warden’s and Resident Magistrate’s Courts presided over by Revell, and the District Court presided over by a judge.

In 1876, the town got a dedicated courthouse: a small wooden building on what was then Hospital Street (later renamed Guinness Street).

Moves to build a larger, grander courthouse appear to have been stimulated by the first sitting of the Supreme Court in Greymouth in 1909. Press reports from the time indicate that both the judiciary and jurors supported a request for better accommodation.