By Beth Bowden
COMMENT: It is no longer good enough for Ministry of Justice officials (News, July 30) to claim that the Tauranga Courthouse "remains a key priority".
It's been ostensibly a priority for years. Nor should they be allowed to dilute this statement with the weasel words, "among other courthouses ..."
Other courthouses have always competed for attention. Nor, in my opinion, should they use what in my view is spurious officialese by invoking terms like "Gazetted High Court".
The ministry can, and have, published Gazette notices for High Court sittings in Tauranga any time one is required.
It is nearly a decade since the ministry made a deliberate decision not to proceed with a concept design that would have delivered the criminal courtrooms Tauranga has needed since before the turn of the millennium.
I was there in 2009 when architects showed how a multi-defendant courtroom, another criminal court, and better facilities for lawyers could be built between the existing (substandard, except for the cells) courthouse and McLean House.
Instead, the ministry opted to compensate merely for the makeshift courtrooms lost with the expiry of a lease in Harrington House; a pretend-temporary bridge between the
buildings; and the judges' chambers.
The new facilities, within which there was no room big enough to house the guests at the opening ceremony, were ready in 2011.
A "long-term property plan" has existed in the ministry for far too long. Its problem has always been intractable: investment choices among a number of poorly-maintained, unfit-for-purpose, high-demand, complex spaces.
Compound this with government preferences for spending on hospitals, schools and birth units (even housing: but not so much).
Such will always be chosen ahead of courts.
Lawyers are correct to say that they put up with poor conditions in order to make things work at all, in their duty to the defendants.
Spare a thought also for the staff, the support workers, and the families of victims and accused.
They are not as many as those who need and use hospitals, schools and houses. But their needs are nevertheless great.
Those needs are not well served by platitudes about priorities, Gazette notices, and long-term plans.
•Beth Bowden was a court manager and registrar, Tauranga High and District Court, 2002- 2013