The Oamaru Courthouse was reopened today (Thursday) by the Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, seven years after it was closed.
He was accompanied by the Waitaki mayor, Gary Kircher, Waitaki MP, Jacqui Dean, , and Dunedin North MP David Clark and members of the local legal community at the official ceremony to mark the reopening.
“Our historic courthouse is widely considered a masterpiece amongst our limestone buildings. The result is a tribute to our community’s persistence, including that of local lawyer Bill Dean, and the willingness of the Ministry of Justice to work with us towards a good result,” says Mr Kircher.
The courthouse, which was built in 1883, was closed in December 2011 after failing to meet minimum earthquake strength and safety standards. The Waitaki District Council took possession of the building in 2016 in a deal to lease it back to the Ministry of Justice for court services following the completion of strengthening works
In August, New Zealand Law Society Otago Branch President John Farrow said the local practice would be delighted that the courthouse is to finally reopen “as they have been operating out of a portacom in a carpark for the past few years”.
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”.
The Waitaki District 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.
The Otago Daily Mail has reported that the layout of the courthouse has changed with the judges’ area being at the rear of the building, and the opera house side of the building now housing the reception area, the front counter and the meeting and interview rooms.
Mr Little says he’s delighted at the progress that that has been made by Council on the strengthening and refurbishment.
“It is fantastic to see such a wonderful facility remain an integral part of the community. I am looking forward to court services at the Oamaru District Court Hearing Centre returning to the historic courthouse. The Ministry will be working with the council to finalise the dates that court services will return.”
The public will have an opportunity to tour areas of the building at an open day on Saturday, 6 October, 10am to 1pm.
[Above, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kirtcher opens the doors to the revamped courthouse. Pic courtesy Waitaki District Council]