The Balclutha courthouse, which has been closed for a year. Photo by Helena de Reus.
Balclutha court users are hitch-hiking to Gore to attend
criminal hearings, and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan says
something has to be done to fix transport issues.
Mr Cadogan said the shifting of criminal court from Balclutha
to Gore was done without consulting the community, and made
it difficult for both criminals and their victims to get to
''If our court services have to be moved, they should be
moved to Dunedin, or a bus put on to transport people to
Balclutha criminal court hearings have been held in Gore
since last December when the courthouse was deemed an
Mr Cadogan said the shifting of court services to Gore
penalised those using the court system for something they had
no control over.
''We have no direct affinity with Gore. It truly is very
difficult for people to find a ride there. Where is the
criminality when a person gets additionally penalised because
they were unable to hitch a ride?
''I've lived here all my life and while I know of many people
that travel to Dunedin every day, I know of no-one going to
He said the whole judicial structure in the country's towns
was being withdrawn and diminished.
One court user, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the
Otago Daily Times that on Monday at 6am, he finished a
12-hour shift in Clydevale. He spent the next two and a-half
hours trying to hitch a ride from Clydevale to Gore via
When he finally got a ride to Balclutha, he went to both the
police station and registry office to tell them his problem
and try to get some advice on what to do.
''I was told that there would be a warrant out for me if I
didn't make it to court.''
The man said he just wanted to get to court and get the
''It's not fair. I don't see any reason why we should have to
travel to Gore for court. We have people who have no
transport, and it's not easy getting a ride to Gore. There's
no buses, and hardly anyone from Balclutha travels to Gore.''
During a sitting of the Balclutha District Court in Gore in
August, Judge John Macdonald sympathised with the
difficulties some Balclutha people faced in trying to get to
their scheduled appearances in Gore. He asked the court how
someone who was disqualified from driving was going to get to
a court date in Gore.
''The court has been taken away from them in Balclutha.''
When the ODT asked Courts Minister Chester Borrows how
court users were to get to Gore, he said there were no
''There's every indication people are getting to court . . .
if they are hitch-hiking, that is their call.''
On Wednesday Mr Borrows confirmed court registry offices in
Oamaru and Balclutha would close in March as both venues are
downgraded to hearings-only courts, a move also imposed on
another seven regional courts nationally.
Like Balclutha, the Oamaru courthouse has been closed since
November 2011, when it was deemed an earthquake risk, and
there has still been no word if the ministry will pay for the
building to be upgraded.
At present court hearings take place in the town's opera
house, which has been described as ''unsuitable'' both by
local lawyers and Mr Borrows.
Original estimates from the Ministry of Justice in October
claimed it would cost more than $5 million to earthquake
strengthen the 129-year-old courthouse.
Those claims caused outrage in Oamaru, when Waitaki Mayor
Alex Familton suggested the work could be done for a 10th of
the $5 million suggested, prompting the ministry to begin a
full engineers assessment of how much it would cost at the
end of November. The assessment, which is being carried out
in conjunction with Opus and the New Zealand Historic Places
Trust, is expected to take another four months to complete.
Two other courthouses, at Feilding and Upper Hutt, which had
been also been closed as earthquake risks, were closed
permanently earlier this week.