12 Dec 2012

Court closures, cuts confirmed

11:49 pm on 12 December 2012

The Government confirmed on Wednesday the closure or downgrading of 13 regional courts.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows announced in October the planned closure of the district courts at Feilding, Upper Hutt, Warkworth and Whataroa.

Courts in nine other centres would open only for hearings.

There have been protests and petitions in Dargaville about the change there, and concerns have been expressed in other towns about court access.

The minister says he understands people's fears but is satisfied they will be no worse off.

Mr Borrows says the changes will make the justice system more efficient, as part of a wider modernisation drive to use technology better. He says crime is at a 30-year low.

He says 30 court staff are affected, but 22 new jobs have been created in nearby regional centres to pick up the transferring workload.

Ministry of Justice figures also released on Wednesday say a total of 33 court management positions will be shed.

When the changes were signalled two months ago, the ministry also announced a review of middle manager court positions, affecting up to 70 people.

The ministry says it is cutting 51 court manager positions nationally, but creating 18 extra front-line positions, with a net loss of 33 jobs.

It says the changes will take effect from April next year and will save the ministry $45.5 million in the next 10 years.

Dargaville community upset

Northland regional councillor Graeme Ramsey, who lives near Dargaville, says the community has not been heard, and feels it is just a short step now to the court being closed altogether.

Mr Ramsey says options are being looked at to stop the downgrade.