MacDonald calls for more consultation on court changes
Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast Mr Scot MacDonald has called for more local consultation, after meeting with local lawyers at the request of Peninsula Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, January 19.
"I am not happy there has been enough ground-level consultation," he said.
"That is something we are remedying and I have asked people to explain some of the changes in more depth because I don't think they are well understood," he said.
Peninsula Chamber of Commerce president Mr Matthew Wales said: "Our concern is that the Peninsula community will not have access to court facilities for criminal, family and civil jurisdictions.
"Peninsula residents will have to go to Gosford as well as Wyong for all those matters," Mr Wales said.
"The incredible thing here is we have a particular problem with domestic and personal violence and sadly this will create another hurdle for victims in what is an extremely sensitive part of the judicial process," he said.
"If you take away the ability for that to be dealt with locally and transfer those matters to Gosford or Wyong, you will be burdening those victims with the additional costs of getting to appearances, the travel, more travel for appeals, that will create a physical and emotional barrier to very vulnerable people."
Mr MacDonald said: "At that meeting, the people who use the Woy Woy Courthouse put up their position about how important it was and some of the difficulties that would arise through the loss of Children's Court services from places like Wyong."
He said the Attorney General had done some consultation with peak state bodies such as the Bar Association "but I am not satisfied they have done enough consultation at the local level".
He said it was difficult for him to comment on the rationale for the Attorney General's proposal.
"I am not the one initiating it but I guess it is about specialising court divisions by holding the Children's Court here at Woy Woy and other matters at larger courthouses like Gosford.
"The lawyers are saying that is fine and well, but it is difficult to imagine challenged members of the community with Children's Court matters travelling down to Woy Woy from other areas and I am sympathetic with that.
"I think that needs a lot of hard thinking.
"I am also concerned about the capacity of Gosford Court House to take on more Local Court matters and I am waiting for more advice from the Attorney General about that.
"I don't think it is a diminution of services overall but for the Central Coast it would be a change and it would be about specialisation.
"We are not there yet, the changes are being debated."
In particular, Mr MacDonald said he had asked the Woy Woy lawyers to put a compelling case together about the barriers to travel caused by limited public transport, the older demographic and constraints on those from lower socio-economic circumstances.
Mr MacDonald said the lawyers also voiced their concerns about the barriers the proposed changes represented for victims of domestic violence.
"They had a pretty compelling argument in Woy Woy this morning," Mr MacDonald said following the meeting.
Interview, 19 Jan 2017
Scot MacDonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast
Interview, 18 and 19 Jan 2017
Matthew Wales, Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
Reporter: Jackie Pearson