New Zealand Law Society - The Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct

The Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct

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Ministry of Justice Chief Executive Andrew Bridgman discusses the state of the art Justice and Emergency Services Precinct which, when complete, will bring all Christchurch’s justice and emergency services together into one modern building designed with people in mind.

With just over a year to go until the precinct opens for business, I recently travelled to Christchurch to talk with the legal profession about how the new building will deliver high quality justice services for Cantabrians. Making sure legal professionals working in and using our buildings have the right tools, resources and support to serve their clients is an important part of this.

We’re excited to be returning justice services to the central city. Our court buildings throughout New Zealand are a key point of connection with the communities we serve. We think this building will make life easier for the people who work in it and the 900 people we estimate will be visiting every day. We’re also very pleased to be offering so many services under one roof.

The largest multi-agency project in New Zealand’s history, the 42,000m2 precinct will be a showcase for modern justice services.

This building symbolises much of what we have been trying to achieve in our drive to modernise courts and tribunals. The ministry’s mission is to deliver modern, accessible, people-centred justice services for New Zealanders. Our starting point for modernisation has been to re-frame our thinking with a view of the customer and we have been able to bring this thinking into the physical design for the precinct from the start. Of course it’s not just about the building; it’s about how we are planning to operate within it.

One of our key aims is to ensure that our services are fit to meet the need for justice services well into the future. With its 19 multi-jurisdictional courtrooms (six of which are jury capable), the precinct will be well equipped to provide full court services for Christchurch, with built-in flexibility in its design to meet changing demands for these services as they arise.

The precinct will make smart use of the latest communication technologies. Like many other courts we’ve recently upgraded, we’ll have broadcast quality video-conferencing in the courtrooms and judge’s chambers. This allows for the clear presentation of evidence during hearings and for people involved in some court events to participate remotely. Fewer people needing to travel to court to attend hearings means fewer case delays.

The building’s infrastructure is designed to support innovation in the future – for example the latest case scheduling and management tools for lawyers, which would make it easier to book rooms and to schedule events. Free high speed wi-fi will be available for people working in or visiting the precinct.

We’ll also be operating our text message reminder service which will help get people to court events on time and reduce non-attendance.

The building boasts numerous other facilities for lawyers and judges wanting to get on with their casework between hearings. With a business suite within the Justice Building, a Law Library and remote access to a wide range of research materials, the precinct will offer a spacious, comfortable, well-lit environment for doing business.

Of course, improving justice services doesn’t just stop at improving the court system. As with the recently refurbished and extended Manukau District Court, the precinct will feature a one-stop-shop customer service centre staffed by a team trained to provide counter services for all jurisdictions. This means our court counter customers can use this service desk whatever their enquiry, be it paying a fine or accessing support services.

Finally, by bringing eight different justice and emergency services together into one modern building, the precinct will provide more opportunities for collaboration with our justice sector partners including Police and Corrections. This will help to provide more joined up services and more efficient ways of working in the areas where our work overlaps.

These are just a few ways in which the precinct, as part of the ministry’s modernisation programme, will help legal professionals to do their job. I look forward to sharing more about this project as we head towards completion.

More information is available on the Christchurch Justice and Emergency Precinct website

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