News that around 100 people would lose their jobs when the Government closed courts has been described as a "bombshell".
Around 100 jobs are expected to be lost through court closures announced by the Government today.
Four courtrooms are to close in Feilding, Upper Hutt, Warkworth and Whataroa.
Nine more local courts will only be used for hearings, instead of being open five days a week.
Courts minister Chester Borrows said the Justice ministry was consulting with staff.
Over 200 staff would be affected by the court closures - with 100 jobs expected to go, Public Service Association national secretary Richard Wagstaff said.
"Staff were briefed this morning and are reeling over the scale of the job losses and the level of change being proposed,'' he said. ''This is a very heavy-handed restructuring which has taken staff completely by surprise."
Several tiers of court management would be wiped out and there would be forced redundancies of dozens of staff.
Labour's justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said the closures are ''plainly driven by cost-cutting, not by a desire for better services.''
He said as well as job losses, staff will have to take on extra work.
Borrows said Whataroa court, with only 11 sitting hours spread over four days in 2011, is one of the least-used courts in the country. Warkworth had less than 20 full days sitting time over 2011.
Feilding and Upper Hutt courts have been closed since November 2011 because of earthquake risk. Nearby Palmerston North and Lower Hutt courts have taken on their work load.
Borrows said the changes were the first for 30 years.
"With many small District Courts sitting empty three or four days a week, moving nine courts to hearing-only courts presents an effective way to ensure local hearings are still available in communities where they are needed," he said.
The hearing-only courts will be Dargaville, Waihi, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, Opotiki, Marton, Waipukurau, Oamaru and Balclutha.
Law Society courthouse spokesperson Iain Hutcheson said courthouses in provincial centres serve many purposes, include the filing of proceedings, witnessing and swearing of official documents, marriage and civil union services, debt recovery and other civil proceedings.
"If closure of some courts is driven by the promise of better delivery of those services through technological advances, we would prefer the technology to be in place and operating to a proven minimum standard before any closures occur, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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