The newly refurbished and extended Tokoroa District Court will result in a better experience for everyone working in or visiting the courthouse, says Ministry of Justice general manager of commercial and property Fraser Gibbs.
“People often interact with the justice system at stressful times in their lives and we want to ensure our courthouses are a friendlier experience. For our court users the result will be a safer environment with more room within the building meaning a more comfortable experience.
It will also result in an enhanced and safer working environment for the judiciary, court staff, lawyers, and people from other agencies like the Police and Corrections.
Creating additional capacity in the building means we should be able to process matters more quickly,” he says.
The Tokoroa District Court deals with a range of criminal, family and civil matters. In 2017 about 639 people faced criminal charges, down from about 1000 in 2009 and 2010.
Fraser says surveys have shown that district court users consistently highlight security as an important consideration.
The project has involved improvements to security including a new search station with scanning capabilities at the entrance to the building.
An enclosed sally port, a secure area where detainees are transferred into the main building from corrections or police vehicles, has also been built.
The building will be generally refurbished and refreshed inside, there will be improved customer counter and visiting areas, an upgrade to cells and an additional hearing room added. The building will also be re-roofed.
Works commenced on the $3.5 million project, being constructed by Watts & Hughes Construction, at the beginning of January.
Watts & Hughes Construction has completed other projects previously for the Ministry including a major alteration and refurbishment project at the Auckland High Court and a major new addition and refurbishment to the Manukau District Court meaning that the company was familiar with the sophisticated project management required.
The Tokoroa project presented typical challenges expected in any project of this nature and Fraser says the Ministry invests a great deal of time with the main contractor to organise a schedule to ensure minimal disruption to the working of the court.
To complete court refurbishment projects such as this there also has to be agreement with the judiciary as to how the court is held so speciﬁc parts of the project can be undertaken, Fraser says.
Other key collaborators include users such as the court staff, police and lawyers. The project ties in with the Ministry’s wider mission to deliver people-centred justice services.
“Our goals are to modernise court and tribunals to help New Zealanders get through the system quicker and provide a great service to the public every day and this project is an example of this. “We’re aiming for a 21st century justice system where people can access justice in the way they expect.
We also want to deliver services that provide value for money for the people of New Zealand,” he says. Modernisation is more than property and infrastructure and also includes legislation, technology, process improvement, he says.
The Ministry’s modernisation goals include reducing the time it takes to hear and resolve matters in a court or tribunal, improving the experience of the people of New Zealand and simplifying and standardising processes to improve productivity and efﬁciency.
The project is part of a general drive to improve and upgrade physical court buildings around the country, he says.
Similar projects are underway in Kaikohe and Whangarei District Court and initial scoping work is underway at Rotorua High and District Court.
Works have just been completed at the Dunedin and Taumarunui courthouses.
Fraser says that the Ministry strives to achieve three outcomes: safer communities, increased trust in the justice system and to maintain the integrity of constitutional arrangements.
The Ministry is the only agency in New Zealand’s public sector that works across all three arms of government: the executive and the legislature and also supports the independent judiciary.
There are more than 3500 people who work in 120 locations around the country delivering justice services.
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