The Ministry of Justice is acquiring central Tauranga homes and a rest home to build its new $150 million courthouse next to the current building.
The Bay of Plenty Times has obtained details about the footprint of the new building, some of its features, construction process and timeframes.
Last week, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi and Minister for Courts Aupito William Sio announced the Government's funding approval for the development.
The new courthouse is set to be built on land next to the existing Cameron Rd building between Monmouth and McLean Sts and was expected to be completed by 2026, Faafoi said.
Ministry of Justice deputy secretary corporate and digital services, Tina Wakefield, said there were multiple addresses that comprised the future courthouse site - 27 and 33 McLean St and 24, 28, 30 and 32 Monmouth Street.
"Some of the sites are already owned by the Ministry, some are under offer and subject to settlement by the end of the month," Wakefield said.
She said this included 27 McLean St, the current location of the Aspen Rest Home. The rest home's manager was approached for comment.
Wakefield said architects were developing an understanding of the work ahead and design work would start soon.
"We would expect that to continue through 2022 and subject to consenting and engaging the main contractor, we anticipate construction to start in 2023."
She said the Ministry anticipated the footprint of the multi-level building would be about 9,500 sq m but the number of floors would be resolved during the design process.
The approved budget of just over $150m allowed for land, design and construction costs, fit-out of the building with furniture, equipment, audio-visual and IT technologies. It also factored in the uncertainty of the current construction market and that the design was yet to be completed, she said.
Wakefield said building costs were likely to be around $100m to $120m.
"We will be better placed to describe features when the first stage of design is completed in early 2022."
Wakefield said the design team includes GHD Woodhead (New Zealand) and Guymer Baily Architects (Australia) as well as specialist advisors.
The team has significant experience designing courthouses and justice sector infrastructure both here and in Australia, she said.
The new courthouse site was chosen after the Ministry conducted an "exhaustive search" for potential sites. The budget — increased from a previously announced $100m for a rebuild on the existing site — reflected the cost of buying land and rising building costs.
Monmouth St couple Brian and Christine Cloughley have lived in the area for three years and will move out of their home early next month after selling the property to the Ministry.
Brian Cloughley said they finally settled the purchase in May/June this year.
"The negotiations process, which has been handled through an intermediary on behalf of the Ministry, has been going on for about two years," he said.
"Our property is one of three on a cross-lease title and the other two owners have also reached agreements with Ministry. They either got all three sites or none of them.
"We absolutely love living here and wouldn't be moving if the Ministry hadn't made us a worthwhile offer. These are beautiful architecturally designed and built homes.
"It is very logical to build the new courthouse here given its proximity to local lawyers, the police station and the heart of the city centre.
"Moving is tinged with sadness but we are now resigned to it. Fortunately, we have been able to purchase a new property in the Avenues."
Cloughley said he recently joined the Elms Foundation board and was passionate about retaining as much of the area's wonderful history as possible.
He said he hoped the design of the new courthouse incorporated features that were sensitive to the historical significance of the area.
The new building will increase the number of courtrooms, meaning High Court cases currently being heard in Rotorua will be heard in Tauranga in the future.
"The buildings will address the safety needs of all participants, including victims, be more family-friendly and meet the physical accessibility requirements for all building users," Faafoi said.
"We want to create court facilities which meet the physical, social, emotional, cultural and spiritual needs of New Zealanders."
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley welcomed the announcement for a number of reasons, including that it recognised the importance of Tauranga as a major city.
"Tauranga is a city nearly twice the size of Rotorua, yet a lot of high court cases get transferred to Rotorua High Court...This decision means Tauranga finally gets to have its rightful place in the region," he said.
"I also think in terms of the whānau connected to any alleged perpetrator it is really important that they can have access to a court close to where they live. It will certainly make their lives a lot easier not having to travel to Rotorua.
"It's also vital that the wairua of the new courthouse is not only a place where people are held accountable for their actions but also a place of healing."
Stanley also said in terms of the design features of the new courthouse it was vital that the Ministry had meaningful engagements with all court stakeholders, including mana whenua.
Last week, Tauranga senior barrister Bill Nabney earlier said the announcement was "long overdue".
"Better late than never. I hope I will still be alive to see the new courthouse finished. I hope the existing courthouse can last the distance, given our ever-increasing workloads."
Tauranga barrister John Holmes said a new Tauranga courthouse was "overdue" and he was likely to have retired before the building was finished.