Ministry serves INJUSTICE for Dunedin Courthouse #HistoricHeritage

In March last year, Justice said it was about to announce the successful contractor for the project, but that did not happen. (ODT)

### ODT Online Sat, 2 May 2015
$600k spent on courthouse, no work done
By Eileen Goodwin
The Ministry of Justice is staying tight-lipped about a change of plan over earthquake-strengthening the Stuart St courthouse in Dunedin, after spending more than $600,000 on its design. This week, the ministry announced the indefinite closure of the historic courthouse, which has been partially closed since December 2011. Court staff and most hearings will be based in the temporary courthouse in High St from May 18.
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Ministry press release says all court staff will move to the Temporary Courthouse in High St, and the Stuart St court will be closed from May 18 until further notice.

### ODT Online Fri, 1 May 2015
Temporary court too small: lawyer
By Eileen Goodwin
The Stuart St court building in Dunedin will be closed until further notice, and a Dunedin lawyer [Anne Stevens] has blasted the Ministry of Justice for years of inaction over planned earthquake strengthening. […] The Stuart St building partially closed in December 2011, but continued to house the Dunedin District Court and a range of court services and staff. The ministry has spent more than $6 million fitting out the High St building as a temporary facility, and it has been used for jury trials and other proceedings for some time.
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### ODT Online Fri, 10 May 2013
Dunedin court upgrade approved
By Rosie Manins
The Ministry of Justice will spend millions upgrading Dunedin’s historic courthouse, much to the delight of the city’s legal fraternity. “We are delighted,” New Zealand Law Society Otago branch president Associate Prof Donna Buckingham said yesterday. “This building represents the roots of the legal profession in Dunedin and many lawyers have spoken to me in the past 18 months about their strong attachment to it,” she said.
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### 31 January, 2003
Speeches: Margaret Wilson
Opening of refurbished Dunedin Courthouse
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa […] It is my privilege today to formally open this wonderfully refurbished building, which has been so important to the development of the law in New Zealand, and is the focus of so much interest for the people of Dunedin.
History of building
When Acting Premier Sir Joseph Ward opened this Courthouse just over 100 years ago, in June 1902, he described it as “the finest in the colony”. The Courthouse was, and remains, a showcase for local stone and the skill of its builders. Dunedin Courthouse - Justice (2012) via Heritage New Zealand. Photo by Phil Braithwaite [4374c_lg]However, the statue of Justice – which is directly above me – was imported from Italy. As Mayor Turner pointed out, the statue does not have a blindfold – the usual way the impartial processes of justice are portrayed. Although I am attracted to the Mayor’s explanation, I like to think of this omission as symbolising the farsighted vision of the pioneering women who took up the law in this city and set the stage for those of us who have followed.
While it has always been hailed as one of finest examples of Victorian Gothic architecture in New Zealand, this building became woefully inadequate as the century progressed. There was far too little space, the lighting, ventilation and heating systems were antiquated, and there were doubts about the safety of the structure in an earthquake. Then seven years ago, as we have heard, the sword fell from the presiding statue of Justice – perhaps she was trying to tell us something!
Courts rebuilding programme
The renovation and extension of this historic courthouse represents a significant capital investment – about $11 million in total. The work is part of a major building programme being undertaken by the Department for Courts. It is an investment that – as anyone involved will tell you, not just here but around the country – has been a long time coming.
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Dunedin Law Courts
1 Stuart Street, Dunedin

Heritage New Zealand | Category I Historic Place – List No: 4374

Dunedin Courthouse (2007) via Heritage New Zealand. Photo by Joan Colley [4374a_lg] 1a

Notable Features:
Its size and grandeur as a gothic building and its unmodified state.

Architect: John Campbell, Government Architect
Although John Campbell (1857-1942) designed the Dunedin Law Courts (1899-1902) in the Gothic style with a Scottish Baronial inflection, he established Edwardian Baroque as the government style for police stations, courthouses and post offices throughout New Zealand.
John Campbell served his articles under John Gordon (c1835-1912) in Glasgow. He arrived in Dunedin in 1882 and after a brief period as a draughtsman with Mason and Wales joined the Dunedin branch of the Public Works Department in 1883. His first known work, an unbuilt design for the Dunedin Railway Station, reveals an early interest in Baroque architecture. In November 1888 Campbell was transferred to Wellington where in 1889 he took up the position of draughtsman in charge of the Public Buildings Division of the Public Works Department. He remained in charge of the design of government buildings throughout New Zealand until his retirement in 1922, becoming in 1909 the first person to hold the position of Government Architect. Government architecture designed under his aegis evidences a change in style from Queen Anne to Edwardian Baroque. His best-known Queen Anne design is the Dunedin Police Station (1895-8), modelled on Richard Norman Shaw’s New Scotland Yard (1887-90). Among his most exuberant Edwardian Baroque buildings is the Public Trust Office, Wellington (1905-09). […] In 1911 Campbell won the nation-wide architectural competition for the design of Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Although only partially completed, Parliament House is the crowning achievement of Campbell’s career.

Construction Details:
The walls are built of Port Chalmers breccia with Oamaru stone window framing, parapets and pinnacles. (It is somewhat unusual for a Dunedin building to be completed in breccia rather than Leith Valley andesite with breccia foundations.) The roof is slate. The marble figure of Justice over the Stuart Street door in Italian and is not blindfolded. The High Court is lavishly gothic, with Rimu emblems and mouldings and with fine cast iron work fronting the jury and press seats and the witness stand. The major doors have gothic arches and the main staircase has a handsome cast iron balustrade. The Law Library still retains its fine built-in bookcases and heavy oak furniture.
An earlier law courts building existed to the east of the present site which was originally occupied by the Dunedin gaol. Later the courts moved to the Provincial Council building in the Exchange. Probably it was the availability of this latter building which delayed the erecting of the purpose-built home for the courts to as late as 1900.

Architectural Significance:
This is a late major gothic building for Dunedin. Only the University buildings around the archway are later in this category of building. It is reasonably pure in its styling, lacking the hybridisation with the classical apparent in some other buildings of this period.

Townscape/Landmark Significance:
The Law Courts form part of the impressive Castle Street precinct which includes the Florentine Railway Station across the road, the Central Police Station and the Otago Early Settlers building.

Related Posts and Comments:
11.7.15 Dunedin Law Courts “an incredible historic building” –Minister
14.5.15 Russell Lund on Ministry closure of Dunedin Law Courts
14.5.15 Justice at Dunedin

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

*Images: Dunedin Courthouse – Justice (2012) via Heritage New Zealand (Photo: Phil Braithwaite); Dunedin Courthouse (2007) via Heritage New Zealand (Photo: Joan Colley)


Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, Democracy, Design, Economics, Heritage, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Urban design

7 responses to “Ministry serves INJUSTICE for Dunedin Courthouse #HistoricHeritage

  1. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Tue, 5 May 2015
    Courthouse future fear
    By Chris Morris
    The Dunedin City Council is to consider whether it can intervene to secure the future of Dunedin’s historic courthouse. Cr David Benson-Pope called for a report on the building at yesterday’s finance committee meeting, “so we can decide on what, if any, course of action we would like to follow”.
    Read more

  2. Elizabeth

    Later this morning ODT covers the current threat to the historic Dunedin Law Courts…

  3. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Thu, 7 May 2015
    Ministry ‘has to front up’ over courthouse
    By Eileen Goodwin
    The “massive lack of transparency” around the future of the historic Dunedin courthouse in Stuart St has been challenged by Dunedin South MP Clare Curran. Ms Curran said the Ministry of Justice must be more forthcoming about what had changed in its plans for the historic courthouse.
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  4. Elizabeth

    Minister Nick Smith won’t help save Dunedin Courthouse from the Ministry of Justice decision to abandon the Category 1 historic building for Courts use.

    The sense of shock and outrage in the community is palpable.

    ### ODT Online Sat, 9 May 2015
    Editorial: Gavel falling on city courthouse?
    OPINION The sense of uncertainty regarding the fate of Dunedin’s historic courthouse is mounting as months of waiting turn into years of frustration and unease. But last week’s announcement by the Ministry of Justice that the Stuart St courthouse would be fully and indefinitely closed within a matter of weeks was a verdict few could have predicted.
    Read more

    Affected buildings in low risk areas, such as Dunedin, Auckland and Northland, will now need to be identified and assessed within 15 years and strengthened within 35 years.

    ### ODT Online Mon, 11 May 2015
    New earthquake rules ‘positive for Dunedin’
    By Simon Hartley – additional reporting by NZ Herald
    Owners of Dunedin’s earthquake prone buildings have a reprieve from undertaking expensive repairs. While Dunedin is now rated a low earthquake risk zone, its number of older and historic buildings has meant some owners may have postponed or delayed upgrading or maintenance work since the Christchurch earthquakes and building code changes.
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    New quake rules (via ODT)

    Low risk: Dunedin, Auckland, Northland.
    Medium risk: Invercargill, Timaru, Nelson, Wanganui, New Plymouth, Rotorua, Hamilton, Tauranga.
    High risk: Christchurch, Wellington, Blenheim, Palmerston North, Napier, Hastings, Gisborne.

    Previously: Dunedin buildings at risk had to be assessed within five years, with strengthening carried out within 15 years.
    Changed: Buildings in low earthquake risk areas, such as Dunedin, now to be assessed within 15 years and strengthened within 35 years.
    Unchanged: Building standards code; buildings must still reach the minimum 35% compliance in earthquake proofing.

  5. Elizabeth

    Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith announced at the weekend Dunedin had been redesignated a low-risk earthquake area.

    ### ODT Online Wed, 13 May 2015
    New rules prompt call for rethink on courthouse
    By Eileen Goodwin and Kay Sinclair
    New earthquake rules deeming Dunedin a low risk ought to prompt a rethink on Dunedin’s historic courthouse, city lawyer Anne Stevens says. The courthouse is closing indefinitely at the end of this week amid uncertainty about when long-signalled strengthening will be carried out. Yesterday was the last judicial sitting in the courthouse, and Judge Stephen Coyle said local judges knew no more than anybody else about the building’s future.
    Read more

    █ Read Opinion page in tomorrow’s ODT.

  6. Peter

    The post Christchurch hysteria had to come to an end. Not before time. Now I can leave the Panic Room.

  7. Elizabeth


    “That building has the stature and the standing to administer justice. This box [High St] doesn’t.” –Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens

    ### ODT Online Tue, 2 Jun 2015
    Questions as courthouse costs continue
    Dunedin’s historic courthouse will cost the Ministry of Justice about $220 a day in rates alone while it lies empty and indefinitely mothballed.
    Since the historic courthouse was pronounced an earthquake risk, no plans for strengthening work have been publicly released, and no strengthening work has occurred. […] [Mrs Stevens said] the idea the building may be expensive to run or maintain needed to be contrasted with the cost of losing ”a dignified seat of justice and a very functional courthouse”.
    Read more

    Related Posts and Comments:
    14.5.15 Russell Lund on Ministry closure of Dunedin Law Courts
    14.5.15 Justice at Dunedin

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