Court staff lose jobs

Three Waikato region Ministry of Justice staff will lose their jobs in a new ''management structure'' announced by the department yesterday.

However, the Ministry says ''no individual has lost their job'', rather they have simply changed the management structure.

More than 1000 staff work in country's courts, with 51 people in management positions accepting a demotion in 18 new frontline positions - or missing out completely. 

The move will save the Ministry $45.5 million over 10 years. 

''That's a healthy dividend from falling crime,'' Ministry of Justice spokesman Matt Torbit said.

But the mood amongst Hamilton court staff was sombre on hearing the news yesterday morning, especially leading up to Christmas.

None of the staff were allowed to speak to media, instead being referred to their head office in Wellington.

Mr Torbit said in the Waikato region - Hamilton, Huntly, Morrinsville, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti courts - there would be 7.1 fewer positions, after eight positions were dissolved and a ''0.9 frontline full-time'' positions replaced.

''This results from removing frontline staff from Te Awamutu and Te Kuiti, which will become Hearing Courts and creating 4.8 frontline positions at the Hamilton court to manage the work of the Hearing Courts.''

In the Coromandel region - Thames and Waihi courts - there will be 0.8 fewer positions consisting of 1 fewer management positions, and an increase of 0.2 frontline FTEs, the spokesman said.

''We have been talking to staff about these changes for months. We heard throughout the consultation and in submissions that many court staff are supportive of what we are trying to achieve, the principles behind the proposals and the need to change. We have listened to feedback on the initial proposal and have made changes to the final structure as a result.''

The Ministry was now going through a ''reassignment process and are looking to maximise opportunities for current staff to stay in the Ministry or wider justice sector''.

However, the Times understands the jobs will open to the wider public, meaning current staff have more competition.The spokesman said a key reason for the change was that ''business has dropped''.

''Official police statistics show crime is at a 30-year low and there has been a 25 per cent drop-off in criminal summary appearances over the last four years.''

The Courts Minister also confirmed yesterday that four of the country's courts will close with nine others turning into hearing courts.