The Dunedin Courthouse. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
The Ministry of Justice has called in several engineering
firms to provide it with options and quotes for strengthening
the Dunedin Courthouse, meaning a decision on its future is
still months away.
The ministry confirmed it was consulting the companies - the
Otago Daily Times understands three or four engineering
businesses are involved - before making a decision on what to
do with one of Dunedin's most distinctive and central
Deputy secretary of higher courts Robert Pigou said this week
because it was such a complex building and required a very
detailed approach, six months had been allowed for that
''We are also working closely with the Historic Places Trust
and expert advisers, and this all adds to the time it will
take us to make a final decision.''
The ministry's final intention and a detailed costing would
be known by the end of May, he said.
The main part of the courthouse, built about 1902, was closed
in December 2011 after an engineer's assessment found the
building's tower was below the strength legally required by
the Building Act.
The tower could potentially collapse in a moderate
earthquake, posing a risk to the northern part of the
building, which housed two courtrooms and other facilities.
The civil and family courts have been moved to another
building and everyone involved in criminal trials for more
than a year has had to make the 440km round trip to
New jury trial facilities in High St, Dunedin, are not due to
open until July.
Asked why the process was taking so long, when other
buildings around Dunedin vulnerable to earthquake damage were
assessed and strengthened more quickly, Mr Pigou said there
were several issues.
A geotechnical assessment was not done until last September
because the immediate priority after closing the tower area
was to get court services running again as quickly as
''Once we had services working well, we turned our attention
to the strengthening work.''
Now, the issue was selecting the appropriate strengthening
options and accurately costing their implementation.
''Because there are a range of opinions, and therefore costs,
the challenge is to get some united views about the specific
type of remedial work needed and greater certainty around
what it will cost.''
He declined to go into any details of the costs involved,
because they were still commercially sensitive.
The ministry has so far given no commitment to fully
reoccupying the building.
Mr Pigou did not respond to a question about what price would
make them reconsider strengthening the building.
Asked why the work simply did not go ahead after an initial
engineering assessment, which suggested the strengthening
work could be done for $650,000, he said further
investigation had shown there were more issues with much of
the heritage building stock.
''In our experience, it is not cheap or straightforward to
strengthen these buildings, especially if they are heritage 1
[category] buildings like [in] Dunedin.
''For the Masterton court, for example, the initial estimate
was $300,000. The final detailed cost estimate was $3.5
The cost of work required to strengthen the Oamaru courthouse
is being reviewed after a public outcry followed a ministry
estimate of up to $6 million to bring the building up to 67%
of the building standard.
The initial estimate there was $350,000.