Closure of Ohakune courthouse shortsighted
Mayor Weston Kirton said that the closure of the Ohakune courthouse was short-sighted and Council would be putting in a strong submission to the Ministry of Justice against the decision.
“The courthouse closure will disproportionately impact on our lower socio-economic communities in the Waimarino area who have some of the highest deprivation levels in New Zealand,” he said.
“The Ministry of Justice has a responsibility to provide equitable access to justice for everyone and closing the Ohakune courthouse that served a large geographic area of Ruapehu district would adversely affect local wellbeing.
The nearest courthouse is now in Taihape 56km away in another district followed by Taumarunui 78km away or Whanganui almost 100km away.
With the high cost of fuel and no suitable public transport options to any of the other courthouses this will create significant issues for people with additional travel costs and the need to take longer off work.
It is very likely that many people will simply not have the resources to travel to attend court sessions which they may be required to do a number of times while their case moves through the system.
It is not just offenders but victims, witnesses, their whanau and other support people as well as legal and court staff and the Police who are impacted by this decision.”
Mayor Kirton said that Ohakune and the surrounding area has been growing strongly of late and needed these justice services within the community.
“The New Zealand Criminal Bar Association, New Zealand Law Society and local legal community amongst others have all expressed their concern over the situation and the barrier it presents to people accessing justice.
While workarounds have been proposed to deal with the issues raised they don't resolve the fundamental concerns raised by these expert voices.
The decision to close the Ohakune courthouse is a further step away from ensuring access to justice for all and we urge the Ministry of Justice to look beyond short term financial considerations to the long term wellbeing of the wider community,” he said.