Tauranga needs a new courthouse, says the Justice Minister, less than three years after $1 million was spent on roof repairs.

The main courthouse building leaks and a recent jury trial was reportedly moved because of water dripping on to the judge's bench.

One local lawyer likened some malfunctions to a "Monty Python sketch".

The leak issues were revealed in an Official Information Act response by the Ministry of Justice, which spent $998,000 (excluding GST) on roof repairs completed in November 2015.


The ministry has responded to seven leaks at the Cameron Rd courthouse since January 2017 - six attributed to faulty air conditioning and one to a buildup of debris in a gutter.

The ministry refused to release a wall cladding weathertightness assessment produced in 2016.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said he was told by officials about leaking and weathertightness issues in the main building during a visit to the courthouse this year.

He said there were plans to completely redevelop the site.

"As I understand it, the existing courthouse building needs to come down and a new building put in its place. It's not a question of trying to patch up what's there, it's about ... a new building that is designed and fit for purpose."

The courthouse layout, level of use and its foundations being affected by the roots of the big trees out the front were also problematic and were contributing to the issues.

The Tauranga courthouse building on Cameron Rd. Photo / Andrew Warner
The Tauranga courthouse building on Cameron Rd. Photo / Andrew Warner

Little said other New Zealand courthouses "of the same sort of vintage" as Tauranga's had also experienced weathertightness issues.

He said he hoped to return to Tauranga in the next three months to meet with the local legal profession, which was concerned about the courthouse. A lawyer had pulled him aside during his last visit to raise issues and concerns.


The ministry-owned courthouse building was built in 1965 and has been extended several times over the years, including an extensive upgrade in 1998.

Craig Tuck, a Tauranga-based international human rights lawyer, said the building had always been shoddy.

"[It's] a terrible leaker, which is probably a health risk, and [needs] never-ending maintenance – which the courts appear to have been addressing over the years. The original build was incredibly rough."

The city had grown and technology had improved, leaving it unfit for purpose, he said.

"The ritual of malfunctioning video equipment has at times been like a Monty Python sketch."

Tuck has worked in courts all over New Zealand and the world and said Tauranga was "very average with staff doing their best".

Craig Tuck, an international human rights lawyer based in Tauranga. Photo / File
Craig Tuck, an international human rights lawyer based in Tauranga. Photo / File

David O'Neill, vice-president of the New Zealand Bar Association, said a Tauranga lawyer told him the main courthouse building continually leaked every time it rained.

The lawyer told O'Neill about a recent jury trial that had to move rooms because water was dripping through a light fitting on to the judge's bench.

A lawyers' toilet that had been blocked and unusable since before Christmas had also been reported as well as layout issues with the courthouse.

"But I think the main issue is the fact that the place leaks and it leaks badly by the sounds of it," O'Neill said.

Ministry property manager Fraser Gibbs said the leaks in the courthouse roof had been fixed and a maintenance plan was in place.

"However, there are wider issues with the city's courthouse and the ministry is developing a plan to address them. Until that plan, and the various options involved, has been finalised, we are unable to comment on any possible costs and timelines."


The repairs to the seven leaks since January last year were arranged by the facilities management provider under the ministry's contract with them, at no additional cost to the ministry.

- Additional reporting: Jared Savage

Leak issues at the Tauranga courthouse since January last year
•January 2017: A leak coming from the ceiling on the first floor outside the judges' resting chambers.
•March 2017: Water coming through light fittings in the cell area and power for the lights have to be switched off.
•March 2017: A leak from the ceiling in a staff room.
•August 2017: A leak in a security room on the ground floor, which wrecked one of the ceiling tiles, according to a report.
•August 2017: A water drip from the ceiling "causing a bad damp smell in the main office".
•January 2018: A roof leak in courtroom three, above the judge and court taker.
Source: Ministry of Justice – Official Information Act response.