Dunedin Law Courts “an incredible historic building” –Minister

Dunedin Law Courts EJ Kerr IMG_0171 2bw 13May2015

A courthouse needed to show everyone involved in a court sitting had their place. Dunedin’s historic courthouse did that. –Professor Mark Henaghan

Justice Minister Amy Adams said in a statement last night her desire, intention and expectation was “that we want to see the historic courthouse building strengthened and returned to, and that hasn’t changed”.

### ODT Online Sat, 11 Jul 2015
Law alumni plead courthouse case [front page news]
By Craig Borley
Otago law alumni have spoken out from around the world, calling on the Government to do what needs to be done to save and return full court services to Dunedin’s historic courthouse. The calls came after University of Otago faculty of law dean Prof Mark Henaghan wrote to the law school’s alumni, detailing the building’s plight.
Read more


### ODT Online Sat, 11 Jul 2015
Courthouse call-out false alarm
By Damian George
Police and fire service were called to a false alarm at the Dunedin District Court building this morning after a sprinkler was tampered with. Senior sergeant Steve Larking, of Dunedin, said someone inside the High St building damaged the sprinkler, causing it to activate.
Read more

Related Posts and Comments:
14.5.15 Russell Lund on Ministry closure of Dunedin Law Courts
14.5.15 Justice at Dunedin
2.5.15 Ministry serves INJUSTICE for Dunedin Courthouse #HistoricHeritage

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

*Image: Dunedin Law Courts, east facade (detail) –Kerr
May 13, 2015


Filed under #eqnz, Architecture, Business, Construction, Democracy, Design, Economics, Heritage, Inspiration, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Pics, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Tourism, University of Otago, Urban design

34 responses to “Dunedin Law Courts “an incredible historic building” –Minister

  1. Peter

    In small print on the front page it says several highly placed law alumni lent their support to restoring the court house, but did not want their names made public.
    For goodness sake, they are only supporting a building restoration. How gutless is that. The fear of upsetting someone? Doesn’t give you much faith in their work of pursuing justice without fear or favour.
    Still it’s the kiwi way. Pathetic.

    • Elizabeth

      I’m not clear if the names were released to the Minister and not for public dissemination. Either way, it’s great they forwarded letters for the cause. Some will be working in greatly and moderately sensitive situations.

      • Peter

        Not convinced. What’s the secret? What’s the problem? Any sensitivities would be in their mind. We know how sensitive most local lawyers have been on pressing local issues like the stadium…..especially for those who milked the public purse. No wonder the profession is down there with politicians, real estate agents and media lackeys.

        • Elizabeth

          Not everyone goes on to practise law as they might do in New Zealand, can be working in foreign trade, foreign aid, diplomacy, embassy work, absolutely whatever…. including the usual evolving fields, such as criminal law, corporate law, family law, intellectual property law, tax law, health law, personal injury law, immigration law, international law, military law, employment law, environmental law, entertainment law, you name it….
          It’s none of our business, but I think we can take it that the Dean of Law (Otago) knows how to treat the situation professionally, and confidently garner the valued support needed. He has done, thanks to the reputation of the Otago law faculty and not least his own.
          Thanks, Prof Henaghan. This is a powerful international watchdog lobby to help ensure the historic courthouse is secured and strengthened for future court work.

  2. Peter

    In the end, good luck to them. It is their courthouse. I would like to see the building restored, but personally it doesn’t concern me who does it and for what purpose the building serves.

  3. Simon

    Interesting how one of our highest paid professions. Lawyers, speak out for a hand out to maintain their lifestyle, but not a dickie bird from them of support in upgrading our public health system. Is that because they have the income to be able to go private.
    Wouldn’t it have been a nice gesture from them, for us to have read a headline. Otago Law Alumni to pledge $10.000 per member to help with the restoration of Dunedin’s historic courthouse. Yeah Right.

    • Elizabeth

      The business case for enhanced building performance needs to be established first, by the expert working party established to liaise with the Ministry.

      The Ministry of Justice owns the building – not the lawyers, judges, social workers, security personnel or courts staff.

      We pay taxes to ensure our ministries have facilities fit for purpose.

      Part of any historic building upgrade programme, especially for a courthouse of this age, stature and heritage significance, is identifying appropriate sources of funding and communicating with those providers to meet the cost of remedial works. Personal donations are generally of insufficient scale to approach major engineering and construction work, if required.

      That said, I have little doubt that the legal fraternity will make coordinated donation of some kind if properly approached. The point is this is not the actual question.

      The HNZ registered Category 1, district plan listed (community) building is likely to qualify for heritage and earthquake strengthening assistance grants from well-known sources, as well as rates relief.

      The work carried out in the early 2000s (Lunds as contractors), including construction of the new courts building alongside, designed by Opus Architecture (architect Jeff Thompson), brought the old building into contemporary Courts use (all on one site) while respecting and utilising the heritage fabric. The very complex architectural redevelopment programme, in addressing conservation and retention of existing courtrooms, public entries, law library, judges rooms and stairwells, also introduced safe paths through the structure to effectively separate court users – few people, unless they are familiar with the building changes that took place, have any idea of what was achieved on site.

      More recently, the Ministry, it appears, was prepared to do a song and dance to write-off the building when the doors were closed in 2013. This was totally reprehensible and unprofessional. It also meant undue and appalling cost in adapting the High Street building as the temporary district court – and that building fails completely to separate court users, as reported in the Otago Daily Times. Children at the Family Court should not at all be in the close company of the criminal element!

      Due to the multidisciplinary working party formed to advocate for Courts re-use of the historic building, utilising the best most cost-effective structural solutions, the Minister has changed her tune somewhat…. in that she now has more information at her disposal and sounds less like a hollow vessel. Beginning to see sense from an initial position of extreme ignorance, more like. Education and expert lobbying is a fine thing.

      Lastly, do you think hospital staff should donate to the new clinical services building to be used by not by a few medical specialists, surgeons and highly paid consultants? Or teachers donate to their main classroom blocks; or university staff to their high tech science labs? Or polytechnic staff to their commercial kitchens, or mechanical engineering facilities? Out of their wages and salaries. No?

      What have you got against legal professionals that you haven’t got against, for example, in no particular order, medical, architectural, accounting, banking, planning, resource management, dental, real estate, financial services, surveying or engineering professionals?

      A mighty big chip on shoulder is what I see, Simon. Or you can be like the rest of us, if need, and go cap in hand to the brilliant services provided for free through the voluntary work of local solicitors and law students – at Otago Community Law. And thank your lucky stars they care, and maybe a whole lot more than you do about them.

    • Gurglars

      The restoration of the Dunedin courthouse is not a matter of money. The government through the justice department has wasted millions on the high street building better spent on repairing the Dunedin courthouse.

      There is an analogy here.

      The same group of idiots have spent millions on avoiding paying David Bain compensation which had they paid it would have put that matter to bed rightly or wrongly.

      Here we have a government and bureacracy intent upon wasting the most money on the worst solution.

      Then when in shortfall they raise real taxes and add quasi taxes.

  4. Elizabeth

    ### dunedintv.co.nz July 13, 2015 – 6:07pm
    Ministry of Justice still unsure it will save Dunedin’s historic court house
    The Ministry of Justice has revealed the complex issues it’s facing with earthquake strengthening Dunedin’s historic court house. Staff have toured the iconic local building today, but they’re still not fully committing to saving the site. 

  5. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Tue, 14 Jul 2015
    Courthouse ‘lunacy’ decried
    By Craig Borley
    The Government’s refusal to confirm court services will return to Dunedin’s historic courthouse brought calls of “double standards”, “lunacy”, and “bureaucratic incompetence” from Dunedin city councillors yesterday.
    The passionate support followed Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens’ courthouse presentation to the council’s finance committee yesterday.
    Read more

    (via ODT) Councillors voted unanimously to endorse two resolutions:
    • To make urgent representations to relevant ministers in respect of the Dunedin courthouse, a category 1 listed building, seeking unequivocal commitment to work necessary to ensure its ongoing use for district court, high court, and associated functions; and
    • That council co-ordinate a taskforce of interested parties to progress the issue.


    Court tour points out problems
    Dunedin’s historic courthouse was opened briefly yesterday as Ministry of Justice officials walked media through the mothballed building.

    Dunedin courthouse (via ODT)

    What we know
    • Required strengthening work will cost “north” of $10 million. [we don’t know that, underlined !!!]
    • Strengthening work will not include “base isolation” being installed in the building’s foundations, which were described as “OK” yesterday.
    • It is expected two “diaphragms” of heavy plywood will encircle the complex at ground and first-floor level.
    • The business case is due to be completed next month.
    • Required strengthening work, if approved, could take between two and three years.

    What we don’t know
    • How far “north” of $10 million required work will be.
    • Whether there is a monetary limit the ministry will not cross.
    • What is causing the expected bill to be so high.
    • Why the ministry won’t commit to returning court services to the building.
    • The details of five of six engineering reports completed for the ministry. The ministry says only the initial 2011 Opus report is fit for public view.



    More soon.

  6. Calvin Oaten

    This Courthouse issue is just another government ‘litmus test’ to check how irrelevant Dunedin is in its plans. Enough ‘angst’ and noise then it might spend the money to restore. If only to protect that dipstick Woodhouse who lives there. It’s not the money (the flag budget would just about do it) but the fact that Dunedin has no impact on the government’s poll ratings. First there was Hillside closing. Impact? Zilch. Then there is the death by a thousand cuts at Invermay. Effect? Nothing that’s measureable. The ongoing SDHB immoveable situation. Voter response? Outside Dunedin, (which doesn’t matter) nothing. Just to double down and recheck the irritation effect of that silly old courthouse. The bookies’ are laying odds now and it it looks like 50 to 1 against restoration and for the polls. Lay your bets now.

    • Elizabeth

      Technically, not restoration – it’s enhancing building performance of a district plan protected Category 1 historic place. The remedial work will involve elements of building conservation.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      There’s no need to protect Woodhouse, he’s list not electorate. Calvin’s list of damage to Dunedin must have already switched any previous National voters to supporting other parties or boycott of electoral process.

  7. Hype O'Thermia

    Benson Pope made short sharp pertinent remarks on the gov’t’s Law Courts stuffaround, broadcast on National Radio about 12.10-ish.

  8. Thomo

    Pull it down and build a 6 floor hotel on the site. Dunedin needs more upmarket hotel space for rugby and other tourist attractions. The site is central, and it will create jobs in both the building and managing the hotel. Dunedin is desperate for jobs. Here is an opportunity to create both long and short term work in the city. At present, even as a court house it sits idle most of the time. It is a wasted space. We have enough relics from the past now for those who want to live in the past. Wake up Dunedin and move forward with the rest of the world. The alternative is for the last person out, to turn the lights out as you go.

  9. Elizabeth

    ### radionz.co.nz Updated 43 minutes ago
    Radio NZ News
    Council joins campaign for historic courthouse
    By Ian Telfer – Otago reporter
    Dunedin City Council is joining efforts to get the Government to commit to re-opening the city’s historic courthouse. The court has been closed so repairs could be made to its quake-prone tower, but the Courts Minister has refused to give any guarantees about when the repairs will be done.
    Defence barrister Anne Stevens has been campaigning to save the Category 1 historic stone building since it was fully closed two months ago, and yesterday Dunedin city councillors unanimously joined her campaign.
    Councillor David Benson-Pope said the council had protected and strengthened many buildings at great cost and he could not understand why the Government was dithering.

    “People have got a responsibility to conserve heritage buildings, especially Category 1 listed buildings. This one happens to be owned by the Government and they’re not doing the business – they need to front up to it.” –Cr David Benson-Pope

    The council’s finance committee has voted to make urgent representations to a range of ministers, and coordinate a taskforce of interested parties to push the issue. Courts Minister Amy Adams is sticking to her line that a decision will be made by Cabinet after a business case has been developed, which is due next month.
    RNZ link

  10. Peter

    You would have to wonder about the Ministry of Justice ‘s business case when it has spent $7m on a temporary facility when the estimated cost of refurbishing the old courthouse is between $5-10m.

  11. Elizabeth

    ### dunedintv.co.nz July 14, 2015 – 5:47pm
    DCC pushes to save the city’s historic courthouse
    A civic push to save the city’s historic courthouse is putting pressure on the government. The city council is launching a taskforce to lobby the Ministry of Justice over the building’s future. And that’s come as local members of the judiciary highlight the facility’s significance.

  12. Elizabeth

    Tabled at Monday’s DCC Finance Committee meeting:

    Report – FIN – 13/07/2015″ (PDF, 94.8 KB)
    Dunedin Courthouse Earthquake Strengthening

  13. Elizabeth

    ### dunedintv.co.nz as at Mon, 20 Jul 2015 at 7:16 p.m.
    Opinion Poll
    Should the government spend millions to re-open Dunedin’s historic courthouse?
    Yes 75%
    No 25%
    Total votes: 57

  14. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Mon, 20 Jul 2015
    Legacy worth cherishing
    By Peter Entwisle – Art Beat
    OPINION It was good the city council responded to Anne Stevens’ call for action over the Dunedin courthouse and has resolved to make ”urgent representations to relevant ministers” to get a commitment to its return to use as a court (ODT, 14.7.15). […] the Justice Department has sounded increasingly doubtful about whether any work will be done.
    Read more

  15. Elizabeth

    ### dunedintv.co.nz July 22, 2015 – 7:31pm
    Nightly interview: Anne Stevens
    A local taskforce is being established to lobby the government about its indecision over the historic Dunedin courthouse. The facility’s closed indefinitely, while the Ministry of Justice considers whether to spend millions on necessary earthquake strengthening. Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens is leading the call for the courthouse to re-open, and she joins us to discuss the campaign.

  16. Elizabeth

    Today’s ODT editorial adds:

    And another thing
    Central Government, no matter the shortage of money for new hospitals or strengthened courthouses, seems also to have a way with wasting money.
    Eight weeks ago came news the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spent $67,339.21 on a new head office sign as well as other egregious extravagance. Then, this week, it was revealed Internal Affairs had spent nearly $3.2 million and four years on a project to shift three important New Zealand historical documents 200m down the road – without yet coming to any decisions on how it was to be done.
    ODT Link

    • Hype O'Thermia

      I heard a national radio interview about the shifting – non-shifting – of those documents. I’ve read “Alice”, I’ve read “Hitchhiker’s Guide”, I’ve read some Terry Pratchett and I’ve read “Catch 22”. I thought I was well prepared for anything NZ on Air could throw at me.

      Zaphod lives!

  17. Elizabeth

    Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens said it is clear some court services should move back to the annexe.

    ### ODT Online Tue, 28 Jul 2015
    Annexe almost as strong as new court
    By Craig Borley
    A large portion of Dunedin’s mothballed historic courthouse is almost as strong as a brand new building, but will not have services returned to it in the immediate future. The historic Stuart St complex includes a large ‘annexe’, built in 2003. That annexe has an earthquake rating of 85%-100% new building standards (NBS), an engineering report shows.
    Read more


    Len Andersen, NZ Criminal Bar Association vice-president, would investigate ‘claims made in the minister’s response’ before reply.

    ### ODT Online Tue, 28 Jul 2015
    Adams’ response ‘sleight of hand’
    By Craig Borley
    Justice Minister Amy Adams believes Dunedin’s temporary court buildings are working well, despite claims to the contrary from the New Zealand Criminal Bar Association. In a letter to Mrs Adams last month, the association requested some court services be returned to the parts of the historic Stuart St site not considered an earthquake risk.
    Read more

  18. Elizabeth


    ODT apologises to the Ministry of Justice and to the High St building’s owner for the incorrect report.

    ### ODT Online Wed, 29 Jul 2015
    Courthouse fully quake-proof
    Dunedin’s temporary High St courthouse has been strengthened to meet 100% of new building standards (NBS). The work was ordered by the building’s owner, Mt Ida Properties Ltd, following a 2012 seismic engineering assessment.
    Read more

  19. Elizabeth

    39 Dunedin Television Published on Jul 22, 2015
    Your word on saving the historic Dunedin courthouse
    As highlighted earlier, locals are setting up a taskforce to lobby the government over Dunedin’s historic courthouse. The Ministry of Justice has closed the iconic building while it decides whether to pay for necessary earthquake strengthening. So our word on the street team asked the public if the government should spend millions to re-open the courthouse.

  20. Elizabeth

    ODT story tomorrow (no surprise, yawn to the Ministry of INjustice) – report uncovered saying the building can be “made safe” for $2.5M (not completely re-done), compare that with $7M spent on the temporary court.

    [this was entirely foreseen by local engineers and building experts —and indeed, as I intimated at What if? some time ago]

  21. Elizabeth

    Ministry dismisses report as obsolete, claiming several subsequent reports showed the need for more extensive, and expensive, work.

    ### ODT Online Fri, 14 Aug 2015
    Repair of court put at $2.5m
    By Craig Borley
    A leaked report on Dunedin’s historic courthouse shows the Ministry of Justice was advised in 2012 the entire complex could be made safe for $2.5 million, within a 40-week period, and without emptying the building of its court services. […] The report, written by Opus Architecture for the ministry and obtained by the Otago Daily Times, was one the ministry had previously denied the ODT access to, claiming commercial sensitivity.
    Read more

  22. Elizabeth

    Letters stem from Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens’ statement to the council last month.

    ### ODT Online Sat, 22 Aug 2015
    DCC enters battle over courthouse
    By Craig Borley
    The Dunedin City Council has joined the battle to save Dunedin’s historic courthouse, writing to several Government ministers to highlight the building’s plight. The five letters, from Mayor Dave Cull on behalf of the council, requested discussions with the ministers, explained the Dunedin community’s interest in the building, and detailed concerns over the Ministry of Justice’s management of the situation.
    Read more

  23. Elizabeth

    Tomorrow’s ODT covers the local ‘taskforce’ set up to fight for Dunedin Courthouse and its ongoing Courts use. Some of the “heavy hitters” are named.

  24. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Sat, 29 Aug 2015
    Courthouse group takes up the cudgels
    By Craig Borley
    Dunedin will not lie down and accept the abandonment of its historic courthouse, a new task force of city heavy hitters says. The Dunedin Courthouse Task Force has been set up following a Dunedin City Council decision to fight for the historic building.
    Read more

    Dunedin Courthouse Task Force:
    (members) David Benson-Pope, Aaron Hawkins, Stephen Macknight, Lou Robinson, Anne Stevens, Mark Henaghan, William Cockerill and Dave Cull



    ### ODT Online Sat, 29 Aug 2015
    Ministry coming clean on courthouse process
    By Craig Borley
    Part of the mystery surrounding the future of Dunedin’s historic courthouse has stemmed from limited information. That is beginning to change. The Ministry of Justice has offered detailed answers in response to ODT questions over the past month. Reporter Craig Borley sets out the information we know so far. […] End of August, 2015: Business case detailing the work needed, and its associated cost, to return services to the historic court complex and its cost to be delivered to Justice Minister Amy Adams. No date known: Amy Adams to take that business case to the Cabinet, where the courthouse’s fate will be decided.
    Read more

  25. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Tue, 1 Sep 2015
    Ministers mum on courthouse
    By Craig Borley
    Government ministers have largely ignored the Dunedin City Council’s request for dialogue concerning the future of the city’s historic courthouse. […] On a visit to Dunedin last week […] Asked about the court’s position in the middle of the heritage tourism precinct, [Prime Minister John Key] said he was happy to discuss it with Mr Cull.
    Read more

    Questions asked
    Source: DCC —via ODT

    Letters sent to:
    • Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key.
    • Minister of Finance Bill English.
    • Minister of Justice and Minister for Courts Amy Adams.
    • Minister of Police Michael Woodhouse.
    • Minister of Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry.

    Letters requested:
    • An opening of dialogue between ministers and the council.
    • An ”unequivocal commitment” to return court services to the courthouse.
    • The Government show leadership in the earthquake strengthening of heritage buildings under its stewardship.

  26. Elizabeth

    ### ODT Online Fri, 4 Sep 2015
    Talks on Dunedin courthouse begin
    By Craig Borley
    A discussion on the future of Dunedin’s historic courthouse has begun between the Minister of Justice and the Dunedin City Council. Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he had spoken to Amy Adams’ office today and was hoping to speak to her directly before he left for China this evening.
    Read more

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