ACT Law Courts: ACT's First Public Private Project Commences Construction

Wednesday 29 June 2016 @ 10.34 a.m. | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure | Legal Research

Recently (16 June 2016), the ACT Attorney General Mr Simon Corbell (the AG) announced that ACT Law Courts Project was on track and released the "contract summary" for the new ACT Law Courts Precinct which is, as the Media Release points out, the ACT Government’s first Public Private Partnership project. Of the contract summary the AG said:

“The contract summary provides information for the community about the value for money the government has achieved by partnering with the private sector, . . . The ACT Law Courts project is the territory’s first public private partnership and has delivered an excellent result for the people of the ACT. . . . This project will ensure the territory will be served by a modern, fit for purpose court complex. . . It will deliver Canberra with court facilities that will meet the territory’s needs for the next 50 years in a more functional, flexible and sustainable way.”

About the New Court Precinct

In 2015, the ACT announced that "Juris Partnership" had been chosen as the preferred proponent to deliver the new ACT court facilities. The selected consortium, Juris Partnership, includes companies with national and international experience in delivering Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and includes, according to the AG's Media Release: Laing O’Rourke Australia Construction Pty Ltd, Macquarie Capital Group Limited, Programmed Facility Management Pty Ltd and Lyons architects.

In the AG's media release, the total project is indicated to have a "net present cost" of $250.4 million over 25 years in current dollars. In "nominal dollars" payments for the first complete year of full operation are estimated to be in the order of $21 million and increasing to approximately $35.5 million in the final year.

Construction of the new ACT Courts Precinct commenced in April 2016 and the project completion date is expected to be September 2018.

The project is intended to replace the now dated ACT Supreme Court building and see it joined with the Magistrates and Children's Courts building forming a four storey building complex fronting Vernon Circle. Further, the project is expected to create 350 jobs, and to increase the current court capacity from 17 to 22 court rooms (with 18 courtrooms to be available immediately on the project's completion).

Problems the New Building is Seeking to Fix

In a report on the ACT Law Courts Project, the Canberra Times reported that the new building would seek to resolve constant IT issues that had plagued the courts, and that the AG had said that ". . . computer systems will be modernised and renewed regularly".

Also the new building will include:

". . . private rooms for lawyers to meet with clients, separate spaces for vulnerable witnesses and prosecutors, a mediation hub, and dedicated space for community and domestic violence services."

The pressure on space for juries in the ACT Supreme Court, which has caused problems on several occasions during the new blitz program for criminal trials, will also be relieved.

Comment and Reaction

The Chief Minister Mr Andrew Barr is reported as saying that:

". . . the project was one of many contributing to urban renewal in the city . . .  [and that] . . . the territory's first public-private partnership signified a new path for procurement for major projects in Canberra . . . public-private partnerships had been used successfully in other states and territories, allowing the ACT to learn from their experience."

The ACT Law Society was reported by the Canberra Times as having ". . . welcomed the announcement of the appointment of Juris Partnership, saying it was pleased to see progress on the project". The Society President Mr Martin Hockridge is reported to have said ". . . the improved technology, modern mediation services, jury management, and separation of parties would help the building meet 'contemporary justice requirements'".

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