Still no date for court service return

It remains unknown exactly when court services will return to the historic Oamaru courthouse,...
It remains unknown exactly when court services will return to the historic Oamaru courthouse, which was officially reopened last week. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD
Oamaru's historic courthouse may have officially been reopened last week, but exactly when court services will resume there is still unknown.

The lower Thames St Oamaru stone courthouse, constructed in 1883, was reopened by Justice Minister Andrew Little and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher at a special ceremony last Thursday which was followed by a public open day on Saturday.

The opening came after a close-to-$900,000 earthquake strengthening and refurbishment project, which was started in February and was completed early this month.

The courthouse was one of several regional courthouses closed in November 2011 after they were found to be earthquake-prone.

In response to questions from the Otago Daily Times, Ministry of Justice commercial and property general manager Fraser Gibbs said more work was required inside and outside the building before any return date for services could be confirmed.

"The ministry has undertaken a security upgrade and built additional interview rooms for lawyers and defendants. The building has also been enabled with Wi-Fi and provided with new smart technology, including some video conferencing facilities.

"The ministry is currently completing some minor work inside the building and will be constructing a sally port, allowing defendants to be securely moved to and from a police or Corrections vehicle into the building."

He said a timeframe for the return of court services would be confirmed at a later date.

"We are looking forward to court services at the Oamaru District Court hearing centre returning to the historic courthouse and we're working with the council to finalise the dates for when that will happen."

Meanwhile, the temporary building on Humber St where court has sat since 2014 after services were relocated from the Oamaru Opera House, will be removed from the site when services return to the courthouse.

The facility is leased by the ministry from Port-a-com.

The temporary building's cells, known as Port-a-cells, are owned by the ministry and will be stored for future use as required, Mr Gibbs said.

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