Using online petition to save courthouse

An online petition is the latest strategy of the Dunedin City Council backed group trying to pressure the Government to restore the historic Dunedin courthouse.

Set up by Dunedin city councillor Aaron Hawkins, a member of the Dunedin Courthouse Task Force, it had more than 220 signatures last night.

The courthouse is in limbo as it lies vacant with no plan yet for its future.

The Government is considering a ''business case'' about whether to strengthen it. Officials closed the court earlier this year after shutting part of it in late 2011, saying it posed a safety risk.

The petition urges Justice Minister Amy Adams to ''save'' the courthouse, and says $6.8 million was spent fitting out the High St temporary court.

Cr Hawkins said the temporary court was inadequate, an ''incredibly expensive'' short term arrangement.

''The petition gives our community the opportunity to show the depth of their frustration and dissatisfaction.

''The greater the level of support for our campaign, the more difficult it is for the Government to ignore.

''It sits alongside our official lobbying efforts, at a mayoral and ministerial level, giving the Government every opportunity to make the only sensible decision - committing to the return of our court services to lower Stuart St.''

Task force member Cr David Benson Pope said the fate of the courthouse had stirred considerable local concern.

''I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't think it needs to be properly restored.

''When the minister gets [the petition], she will see that there are hundreds or thousands of people who support the issue.''

The Government had not been upfront with documents and analysis pertaining to the court, Cr Benson Pope said.

''A great deal more scrutiny needs to be applied to this decision making process.''

Dunedin based National list MP Michael Woodhouse could not be contacted.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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