Council works to keep court services in town

The Waitaki District Council is taking seriously the loss of court services to Oamaru after its 1883 Oamaru stone courthouse was closed for up to a year for earthquake strengthening.

As a result, the council has informally appointed Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton and two councillors, Jim Hopkins and Hugh Perkins, to help the Oamaru legal fraternity, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and the Justice Ministry to try retaining court services in the town.

The appointments were made during an informal discussion on the court closure at a council meeting on Tuesday. It could not be discussed formally, because the item was not on the official agenda.

However, the appointments will be formally confirmed at a council meeting on December 20.

Council chief executive Michael Ross said the important things were for everyone to work together with all those who might be able to help.

"The restoration of a full, functioning court service for this community is clearly a priority which we take seriously," Mr Ross said.

Already, the ministry has said it would look at options, providing they met criteria, including security for criminal court sittings.

Criminal court hearings in Oamaru this week were cancelled and will be held in Timaru on December 21 and 22.

The ministry announced on December 1 that the Oamaru courthouse, along with five others, would close after an engineering report found them at risk from earthquakes.

In the case of Oamaru, court services would be handled from the Timaru courthouse.

However, Mrs Dean, Mr Familton and lawyers want to retain as many court services as possible in Oamaru because of the difficulties for North Otago residents who would have to access services in Timaru.

david.bruce@odt.co.nz

 

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