Courthouse contract likely let this month

A contract to upgrade Dunedin's historic courthouse is likely to be awarded at the end of the month.

The Ministry of Justice was ''close'' to making an announcement about the successful contractor, a spokesman said yesterday.

Because the tender process was ongoing, the ministry would not answer questions about how many tenders it received and from which companies.

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

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

It is facilitating jury trials and more court cases will be transferred there when the earthquake strengthening work on the Stuart St courthouse starts.

The ministry expected the work to take about two years.

During that time the former CIB building in Dunbar St, housing coronial services, will also be closed and operations transferred to John Wickliffe House.

The ministry has not confirmed how much the project will cost, but estimates based on previous engineering reports suggest an upgrade in line with new Building Act requirements would cost between $3 million and $10 million.

In 2001, the ministry spent about $10 million refurbishing the stone courthouse, when part of the building to the south was demolished and a three-storey annexe built.

Earthquake-strengthening during the upgrade was limited to non-invasive securing works, which brought everything but the Stuart St tower up to minimum standards of the time.

The tower was strengthened in 1993, but the work did not extend to the ground floor, which meant it was not up to standard overall.

When engineers assessed the courthouse in 2011 they found the tower was likely to topple in a moderate earthquake, and outside parapets and ornaments were also unstable.

If the tower collapsed, it would likely damage the main entrance foyer, reception, public toilets, courtrooms 1 and 2, the judges' lounge, chambers and law library.

At the time, it was estimated the minimum required strengthening work could be done for $650,000, and the entire courthouse could be upgraded beyond the minimum standard for $3.5 million - an option engineers recommended.

Opus estimated the cost of upgrading the courthouse to importance level 3 under the Act (as recommended) was about $10,000 per sq m of gross floor area, excluding GST.

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