Move to secure courthouse lease

May 12, 2017 - 18 views

The Waitaki District Council has directed council chief executive Michael Ross to finalise the lease of Oamaru’s 1883  courthouse in Thames St to the Ministry of Justice.

This week the council approved $900,000 in spending from the Oamaru Endowment reserve fund to strengthen and improve the building, which has stood vacant since the courthouse was identified as requiring earthquake strengthening and was closed in November 2011.

Mr Ross was directed to ‘‘work through the few remaining issues’’ with the Ministry of Justice to secure a lease which would allow court services to return to the main street and a purpose-built facility.

Court services in Oamaru have been run from a ‘‘porta-court’’ borrowed from Christchurch and situated in Humber St since 2014.This week’s council decision was not unanimous though.Cr Guy Percival voted against the plan, saying he was ‘‘not comfortable with the whole deal’’.

Ownership of the courthouse was transferred to the council last year on the understanding the ministry would then lease it for court services.

It was closed because the Government could not justify spending the millions of dollars it was estimated would be required for earthquake strengthening.‘‘Why do we want the ... building?’’ Cr Percival asked at a council meeting on Wednesday. ‘‘It’s just adding to our property portfolio when we’re trying to get rid of [property].’’Cr Melanie Tavendale said without the council stepping in, returning court services to the building ‘‘probably wasn’t going to happen’’. It was possible court services could leave town once the lease had expired with the ministry, but that was not a strong enough reason to go ahead with the project.‘‘What the Government decides to do, whether it’s in 10 years time or not, we’ve made it as easy for them to have a place that works as we can. And we’ll continue, probably, to try to work with them to make sure we don’t lose that. But I think we can’t be too scared to do something worrying about that.’’At the Wednesday meeting Cr Jan Wheeler asked if the council would be seeking a 10% return on the funds it was spending on the building. She was rebuked by Cr Tavendale.‘‘In an open meeting, talking about negotiations is really bad form,’’ she said.

 

Credit: Otago Daily Times

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