Courts Minister Chester Borrows today confirmed the changes to the District Court network announced in October.
The changes involve nine small courts being used only for hearings, rather than being open five days a week, and four small courts being disestablished.
“Crime is at a thirty-year low and the number of criminal summary cases has dropped 25 per cent since 2008/09. The Government is taking the opportunity this provides to improve the administration of New Zealand’s District Courts to bring them in to line with public expectations of convenient and accessible services,” says Mr Borrows.
The decision to proceed follows discussions between the Ministry of Justice, local Police, Corrections staff, lawyers and other stakeholders on how the changes will work best for communities. The Ministry has also consulted with staff affected by the changes.
“We have a plan to modernise courts though greater use of technology, better processes and more efficient use of infrastructure. The key shift is to use courthouses for hearings and to deliver other services in more modern ways, such as via phone, internet or video-conference.
“With courtrooms in many small District Courts sitting empty three or four days a week, moving nine courts to hearing-only courts presents an effective way to ensure local hearings are still available in communities where they are needed,” says Mr Borrows.
The hearing-only courts will be Dargaville, Waihi, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, Opotiki, Marton, Waipukurau, Oamaru and Balclutha.
The four courts to be disestablished are Feilding and Upper Hutt, which have been closed since late last year because of earthquake risk, and Warkworth and Whataroa.
“These changes are possible due to the success this Government has had in reducing crime rates, and will help us deliver modern court services which are focused on delivering a just result to New Zealanders.”
The Ministry of Justice will now work with local Police, Corrections, lawyers and others to ensure a smooth transition to these new arrangements in early 2013.
The Ministry has also consulted with court staff affected by these changes as part of its wider reconfiguration of the management and support structures within the District Courts.
Further information, including detailed information on individual courthouses, can be found at www.justice.govt.nz/courts/changes.