Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke inspects the progress of renovations at the heritage-listed court precinct.
Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke inspects the progress of renovations at the heritage-listed court precinct. Barry O'Rourke

$16M to restore, upgrade court buildings

MASSES of scaffolding are hiding a delicate renovation project underway on the city's iconic court precinct in the Rockhampton CBD.

The maintenance project is made more difficult by the heritage status of the former Supreme, District and Magistrates Court buildings.

Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke said the renovation, plus an upgrade to the current courthouse, would provide a much-needed financial boost to the region and construction jobs.

The eight-month renovation and restoration of the heritage-listed buildings is being carried out by Paynters Pty Ltd and supports 25 full-time jobs for the duration of the project.

"Work on the old courthouse buildings is being done in close consultation with the Department of Environment and Science to ensure the heritage integrity of the buildings is maintained,” Mr O'Rourke said.

The old Rockhampton Supreme Court.   Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
The old Rockhampton Supreme Court. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison ROK131114ccourt6

"It includes replacing the roof on each of the three buildings and structural work to the former Magistrates Court House and former District Courthouse, as well as enhancing accessibility.”

Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni said the refurbishment was vital to conserving Queensland's history.

He said the department was also finalising tenants for the rejuvenated office space with the project due to be finished in the first quarter of 2019 at an estimated cost of $4.8 million.

The second project is a $12-million upgrade to the current court house.

"This 12-month project is being done by Hutchinson Builders of Rockhampton and will support the equivalent of 22 full-time jobs this financial year and another 17 in 2019-20 financial year,” Mr de Brenni said.

The current courthouse - which hosts all three court jurisdictions - was officially opened in April 1998 and sits in the same complex as the heritage-listed buildings.

ABOUT THE PRECINCT:

ROCKHAMPTON'S historic court precinct was entered into the State Heritage Register in 1992.

Known collectively as the Rockhampton Court and Administrative Complex, the precinct contains the only surviving 19th Century court house that has served the Supreme Court continuously since 1896.

According to the heritage register, Rockhampton was declared as a 'port of entry' in 1858.

In 1859, when Queensland and New South Wales split, Brisbane became the base for the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Sign at the old Rockhampton Supreme Court House which is reputed to be haunted.   Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Sign at the old Rockhampton Supreme Court House which is reputed to be haunted. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison ROK131114ccourt5

Rockhampton became a circuit town for the Supreme Court in 1863 following an 1859 petition for a court house in the newly-established town.

A site had been reserved on Quay St in 1859, but the community demanded a more central court house and lock up on the land bounded by Bolsover, East and Fitzroy Sts.

The original court house was built in 1861 for £1130, designed by notable architect Charles Tiffin.

This court house served the community until the 1880s when the discovery of gold in Mount Morgan transformed the region.

Old Supreme Court building now Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Old Supreme Court building now Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison ROK010116cnow4

With a major building boom, enough wealth was generated to create other public buildings including Customs House, the Post Office, and the 1887 Supreme Court building.

This imposing building replaced the Tiffin Court House, which also continued to serve as a court and then administrative building until 1969. It was demolished in 1978.

Tenders were called for the construction of the new court house in 1885 and the first half-yearly Supreme Court sitting was help in September 1887.

A Supreme Court judge was appointed in 1896.

The Police Magistrates Court relocated to the Tiffin court house, but would get its own home in 1935.

The precinct also includes the former District Court, Family Services' Building, and the Government Office Building.