$3.2 million committed so courts can function

The Ministry of Justice has announced its main contractor to add to court facilities in its temporary High St building. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
The Ministry of Justice has announced its main contractor to add to court facilities in its temporary High St building. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

The Ministry of Justice has named South Island company Amalgamated Builders as main contractor for the $3.2 million upgrade of its temporary High St building.

The work to expand court facilities will bring the total amount of work there to more than $6 million, money the ministry says it will not get back, but has to spend.

The work at High St is taking place to provide court space while work continues on the historic Stuart St court building.

The ministry announced last year it would spend millions upgrading the category 1 heritage building, built in 1902, after an engineer's assessment in December 2011 found it to be unstable.

Since then the main part of the courthouse has been closed, and the ministry has spent about $3 million turning the High St building into a temporary courthouse for jury trials.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows confirmed Amalgamated Builders would be the main contractor in the next stage of the work at High St.

The company would build more courtrooms, with support and custodial areas, in addition to the already operating jury court.

Jury trials returned to the building last year, having being held in Invercargill since early 2012.

The work programme would take those trials into account, to make sure there was minimal disruption inside the courtroom.

Mr Borrows' private secretary Oliver Searle said a time frame was yet to be confirmed on the Stuart St building, but the court would be at High St for ''more than two years''.

''We're not spending this to be in there for 12 months.''

He said there was little that could be recovered from that spend once the court moved back to Stuart St.

''A short answer is probably not much, but they will be able to take some of it around - IT equipment and furniture.

"I suppose, at the end of the day, we have to do what we have to do'' to keep the courts running in Dunedin, he said.

Building co-owner Alistair Broad said he liked to ''see someone make a commitment to a building''.

But the refurbishment was ''specialised'' and would not necessarily make it easier to lease once the court had left.

Amalgamated Builders has completed contracts in Dunedin that include $35 million of work on the Dunedin Centre, Town Hall and Municipal Chambers complex.

A spokesman yesterday said he was unable to comment on the bid without ministry approval.

Mr Borrows said the Dunedin courthouse in Stuart St was ''an icon of the city'', and keeping court operations running while ensuring the building was safe and fit for purpose presented the ministry with ''huge challenges''.

''I acknowledge that it hasn't been an easy process for the legal community, which has faced some disruption since parts of the courthouse were closed in December 2011.''

Once completed, the latest stage of work would mean all District Court and High Court matters would be heard at High St.

Until High St work was done, the Family Court would continue at John Wickliffe House.

Coronial inquests, Disputes Tribunal and District and Youth Courts would continue at Stuart St.

The ministry said structural engineering design work at the Stuart St courthouse was progressing and geotechnical work was under way.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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