Slice of New Zealand’s legal history preserved in new book

An enthusiastic crowd celebrated the launch of Terry Carson’s latest book at the Papakura Museum on Friday 8th March. Built for Justice – Visits to old North Island Courthouses takes the reader on a journey back in time to when the courthouses in many towns around New Zealand formed the backbone of the local community.

A writer and historian, Terry retired recently following 37 years in legal practice in Papakura. The Papakura Courthouse has its own tales to tell, notably an incident in 1977 when the inadequately constructed and ill-reinforced building caused one soon-to-be-prominent Parliamentarian to fall through its floorboards. The young lawyer David Lange’s comments are apparently not on record.

The book includes historical research, photographs, local and legal anecdotes as well as the odd sensational newspaper item, all providing a vivid account of the institutions which contributed significantly to the social history of New Zealand’s small towns.

The launch party was attended by Terry, his wife and daughters, and those who were lawyers when the old courthouse was active – notably Kanti Balu, Devon McDonald, Komene Jones, John Burton – as well as current practitioners and two retired senior policemen of the community – Snr Sgt Tony Tremewan and Snr Constable Eric Barlow. The curator of the Papakura Museum spoke, along with Terry and his publisher.

Terry says “I wrote Built for Justice as I felt that the important role courthouses had played in small town New Zealand was often overlooked in local histories. Also, I hoped by writing the book I would draw attention to these unique and interesting buildings. The more people are aware of them the more likely it is that they will be preserved and valued as a part of our national heritage.”

He is delighted with how the book has been received by peers and members of the profession, noting “I get the impression that with the number of changes currently proposed for our courts there is considerable interest in the fate of some of these architecturally and historically important buildings”.

Built for Justice – Visits to old North Island Courthouses is available from the Law Society Store – : phone 09-3065740 or email

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