Courts Minister Chester Borrows today opened a temporary criminal court facility on Masterton’s Church Street, to accommodate criminal hearings until the main courthouse is reopened.
“The temporary closure of seven courthouses due to seismic risk has been challenging, both for Courts and for the local community. Throughout it we have been focused on restoring services as quickly as possible, particularly to the priority areas of Christchurch, Dunedin and Masterton,” says Mr Borrows.
“The temporary court, housed in the former Shoprite supermarket, is a tangible example of our commitment to these communities, and provides us an ideal and cost-effective option to tide us over until the main courthouse is reopened.”
The temporary courthouse has cost around $600,000, and will take all Masterton criminal cases, starting on Monday 13 August. Family and civil hearings will continue to be held at Masterton’s Departmental Building on Chapel Street.
Repairs on the original Masterton courthouse are expected to take until April 2013, and cost around $3.5 million – more than the initial estimate for strengthening all six closed courthouses.
“The high cost to strengthen these buildings means we need to invest carefully in the areas where there is the most need. The Masterton courthouse has the highest workload of the temporarily closed courts, so reopening it has been a priority for the Ministry of Justice,” says Mr Borrows.
Mr Borrows stressed that court services were now operational in all the affected areas through a combination of moving services to nearby courthouses or establishing temporary facilities in communities.
The Ministry’s focus was now on returning permanent court services to Christchurch, Dunedin and Masterton with decisions on long-term solutions for other courts expected to be taken later this year.
“Interim solutions in the affected communities are working well, and this has given us breathing space for our strengthening programme and shown us that we have flexibility in how and where we offer services,” says Mr Borrows.