Balclutha court future sealed

The Ministry of Justice this week confirmed that the Balclutha courthouse will only be used for hearings from March next year.

The courthouse has been closed since late 2011 because of the risk of collapse in a serious earthquake and all hearings have been heard at Gore, Dunedin or the Balclutha St John Ambulance Centre.

Minister for Courts Chester Borrows said yesterday that crime was at a 30-year low and the number of criminal summary cases had dropped 25 per cent since 2008-09.

"The Government is taking the opportunity this provides to improve the administration of New Zealand's District Courts to bring them in line with public expectations of convenient and accessible services."

The decision followed discussions between the Ministry of Justice, Police, Corrections, lawyers and other stakeholders on how the changes would work best for communities, Mr Borrows said.

"We have a plan to modernise courts though greater use of technology, better processes and more efficient use of infrastructure.

"The key shift is to use courthouses for hearings and to deliver other services in more modern ways, such as via phone, internet or video-conference."

The Southland Times