Saturday, November 27

New $ 50 million courthouse and police center for Whanganui

A new courthouse will be built in Whanganui with “community-led welfare” as a central part of its design, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi announced today.

Whanganui existing courthouse

Whanganui existing courthouse
Photo: LDR / Te Ahipourewa Forbes

The minister says the $ 50 million courthouse will be an opportunity to redesign court facilities that help place victims at the heart of the court system. Social, health and community services for victims and offenders can be housed in the new facilities.

The courthouse will be built outside the city center on the former UCOL campus, a large site bounded by Bell, Dublin, Wicksteed and Liverpool streets. It will house four courtrooms instead of the three in the current courthouse on Market Place, next to Pākaitore and the river.

A new police station has also been proposed for the site.

The exact location of the courthouse and any other buildings on the larger site will be decided later this year once master planning for the site has been completed.

The Ministry of Justice is working closely with the local iwi, the community, the Whanganui District Council, the New Zealand Police and other agencies to make community-led wellness outcomes critical to design and construction. of the new courthouse, Faafoi said.

The new courthouse, expected to open in 2025, is part of a 10-year infrastructure investment plan to restore and modernize the Ministry of Justice buildings.

“We want to create court facilities that meet the physical, social, emotional, cultural and spiritual needs of New Zealanders. They will also support the vision of Chief District Court Judge Te Ao Mārama to transform the District Court,” Faafoi said.

“The buildings will address the security needs of all participants, including victims, be more family-friendly, and meet physical accessibility requirements for all building users.”

The old UCOL complex where the new courthouse will be built.

The old UCOL complex where the new courthouse will be built.
Photo: LDR / Te Ahipourewa Forbes

Courts Minister Aupito William Sio said that in addition to enhancing traditional court services, the new court would support the provision of comprehensive services for both victims and offenders through the potential co-location of social and community sector agencies. .

For the first time in Aotearoa New Zealand, the courthouses would be designed in partnership with the local community, the judiciary and local iwi and hapū, and the Whanganui courthouse would reflect local Maori Tikanga and Te Ao Māori values, Sio said.

Whanganui iwi leader Ken Mair welcomed the announcement and said iwi and hapū had been working for months with the Ministry of Justice and the police on building a centralized center that includes community-led services.

“This is great news from our point of view and it is consistent with the bigger picture of Te Puna Hapori, that is, we and the community working together to ensure that the judicial system in our community works within our values. It is exciting. “.

He said the new courthouse and proposed police station would occupy only part of the large site, allowing health, social and community services to be located together. Maori healthcare provider Te Oranganui currently operates from the site. There is also a large marae complex, Rangahaua.

“Our expectations at a high level are for it to be the perfect place for our health and social services to provide comprehensive services for our community. The practicalities have yet to be resolved,” Mair said.

“In a sense, there is less focus on the building and more focus on opportunities for systemic change. We would expect some clear systemic changes within the court system within our community and that there will be some fundamental changes in behavior and attitudes within the system. judicial system, the police system, the judicial system, including how they interact with our community and with us as a people, as hapū and iwi. “

Mair said the construction will also bring jobs, training and associated economic activity to the region.

The site previously belonged to the Ministry of Education, but was transferred to the Ministry of Justice as part of the preparations for the resolution of the Treaty. Mair, who is the chairman of the Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust, which is currently negotiating a settlement with the Crown, said future ownership of the site is critical.

“We are in negotiations with the Ministry of Justice through the settlement process. We have strong expectations that the land will be returned to our property in the future.”

The existing court and the 1803 square meters of land on which it sits are owned by Ngā Tāngata Tiaki or Whanganui, the Post-Settlement Governance Entity for the Whanganui River Treaty Agreement (Te Awa Tupua). Discussions about his future continue.

More than $ 150 million was also approved to build a new courthouse by 2026 for the Superior Court and the District Court in Tauranga. After considerable community consultation by the Justice Ministry, building on a new site on land adjacent to the current courthouse between Monmouth and McLean streets has been identified as the best option, Faafoi said.

The current site of the Tauranga courthouse is too small to accommodate anticipated future demand. The new building will increase the number of courtrooms, which means that the High Court cases currently being heard in Rotorua will be heard in Tauranga in the future.

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Association of News Publishers, and NZ On Air.

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