8 Dec 2015

Dunedin courthouse saved from demolition

5:10 pm on 8 December 2015

Dunedin's mayor is "absolutely delighted" the city's historic courthouse will be saved, now that the government has agreed to a $15 million restoration project.

The historic Dunedin courthouse.

The historic Dunedin courthouse. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The category-1 stone building was built in 1901, but was closed in 2011 when it was deemed an earthquake risk.

Courts Minister Amy Adams announced yesterday that Cabinet had agreed to fund the project.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull said despite concerns about the price tag, he was pleased the government had stepped in to pay for the restoration.

"We're absolutely delighted. That's what we were asking the government to commit to - not so much the price, because we believe it still could be done for less - but the department of Courts has decided this is what needs to be done. What we are concerned about is the final result, and the Minister has committed to that, so we're grateful."

Mr Cull said the decision addressed concerns the High Court would not sit in the city if the courthouse was not refurbished.

Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens, who was behind the campaign to restore the building, says it complemented the city's landmark railway station.

"It's quite an extraordinary building and it complements our railway station which probably everybody in New Zealand has seen on a postcard somewhere, or a calendar. so that whole historic precinct will be alive and functioning again, rather than having one building that is neglected and abandoned."

Ms Stevens said campaigners thought the restoration might never happen as the government had spent more than $6 million on temporary premises.

Ms Adams said the Cabinet's decision reflected the significance of the courthouse as a part of the city's heritage, and its importance to the region's legal fraternity.

The project includes earthquake-strengthening and outfitting the courthouse with modern facilities.

The work is expected to take two years to complete.