The Oamaru Courthouse is finally due to reopen in late September – nearly seven years after the doors were shut.
The courthouse was closed in December 2011 after failing to meet minimum earthquake strength and safety standards.
“The local practice will be delighted that the Courthouse will be finally be reopened as they have been operating out of a portacom in a carpark for the past few years,” says Otago President John Farrow.
In LawTalk’s report on the state of the nation’s courthouses in the February 2018 edition, one lawyer described that situation as “woefully inadequate”.
In 2016, an agreement was struck between the Waitaki District Council and the Ministry of Justice to get the historic courthouse restored and re-opened.
“The Ministry of Justice is delighted to see the progress being made by the Waitaki District Council on the strengthening and refurbishment of the former Oamaru District Court building,” says Fraser Gibbs, the Ministry of Justice’s General Manager Commercial and Property.
“Work funded by the ministry includes security upgrades, technology upgrades (such as AVL and wi-fi) and some construction work to create spaces necessary for a modern courthouse such as interview rooms.”
A spokesperson for Waitaki District Council says it has budgeted $900,000 for the capital works project and that it is on track to meet that budget.
The council says its work has also included structural strengthening, roof replacement, car park re-shaping, storm water drainage upgrade, HVAC upgrade, exterior stone cleaning and exterior repainting.
A formal opening of the courthouse is due to take place.
In the February 2018 edition of LawTalk an article on the state of the nation’s courthouses noted some issues in Queenstown which was …. ”increasingly unable to meet the demands placed on its facilities. There is no AVL booth, only a mobile unit. This means counsel taking instructions from defendants in custody need to make a trip to the prison in Invercargill, 187 km away.”
One practitioner in the resort town now says there is now an AVL suite for use by lawyers, reducing the travel time significantly.