Christchurch's justice precinct 'opens' a month before it is expected to be operating
Christchurch's justice and emergency services precinct has officially opened – but the project is not yet complete.
As Prime Minister Bill English and Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams opened the $300 million yet-to-be finished precinct on Tuam St, construction workers huddled out of sight.
The Ministry of Justice was expected to start operating from the building about mid-October. Agencies would start fitting out their offices after a public open day on Sunday, Adams said.
The area, which has been repeatedly delayed, will house the ministry, police, Department of Corrections, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, St John and Civil Defence.
A Stuff reporter at the opening said the part of the building where the launch was held looked finished, but 100 metres down the path the parking building and some of the emergency services building was incomplete.
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English, who officially opened the building, lauded the Government's social investment approach.
"We have changed our thinking about what we're trying to achieve in this building," he said.
"We're not here to service the misery of offending and criminal behaviour, we're here to reduce it and change people's lives."
English recalled early discussions around constructing the building set "impossible" timeframes, "but here we are, we've just about made it in what were quite difficult circumstances", he said.
His speech focused on the need to make such buildings redundant.
"We're opening a building today and a big part of it is we want to see [it] empty, eventually.
"To imagine it filling up and staying full forever is simply to contemplate intergenerational failure. We don't contemplate that."
Adams said the opening was "a special day for Cantabrians" that would "boost the vibrancy and economy of Christchurch city".
"I know that Cantabrians have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the precinct, which will breathe new life into a city that continues to rise from the rubble of the earthquakes."
She said that after Sunday's open day, the ministry would start its fitout and begin mock trials to ensure all areas were "fully functional before public operations begin" in mid-October.
"Other agencies will be undertaking the fit-outs and testing of their areas throughout October and November."
The precinct was due to officially open in August, but this was pushed back after contractor Fletcher Construction "further revised" the completion date to the end of September for the justice building and end of October for the emergency services building.
At the time Adams, the ministry and Fletcher Construction all refused to comment on the cause of the repeated delays.
An earlier planned precinct handover date, March 31, was pushed back to June 30, with fit-outs to follow.
Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner said last week the delays would not leave the Government out of pocket. She said it had cost Fletcher $100m extra.
Labour Canterbury spokeswoman Megan Woods said
National knew there was some dissatisfaction with a lack of progress on the anchor projects and was "desperate to see some more across the line".
"We only have two completed for which the Crown are responsible."
People looked at the empty lots for projects like the metro sports facility and convention centre and wanted to see progress, she said.
"What we need to do is celebrate our successes, but let's make them real completions."
Labour Christchurch Central candidate Duncan Webb said it was interesting National opened the building before agencies had started using it, yet while voting was under way.
"Every anchor project that was in the blueprint was scheduled to be completed by now."
Fletcher Construction declined to comment.
ABOUT THE PRECINCT
- It will house the Ministry of Justice, police, Department of Corrections, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, St John and Civil Defence.
- There are three buildings – one for justice, one for emergency services and a car park.
- The base isolators, which protect the building during an earthquake, are on the first floor, above the cells.
- It is set up to operate for more than 72 hours during emergency events. This includes food, water, power generation and grey-water and sewage storage.
- Heating and cooling is managed using aquifers below the building as a heat exchange.
- The precinct has about 40,000 square metres of floor space. About 2000 workers and visitors will use it daily.