Community Law Offices
Community Law can help Māori Committees and District Māori Councils with legal issues, for example developing mediation and arbitration capacities. If your Māori Committee or District Māori Council would like to develop a relationship with your Community Law Centre contact www.communitylaw.org.nz
Community Law Restructuring – “what it may mean to Māori”
Kanohi ki te kanohi community law services must be maintained for all people. Proposals to deliver legal information, advice or representation services by internet, skype, or 0800 phone will work deeply to Māori detriment if it is to substitute for or diminish the current kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) environment. (link to current issues)
NZMC supports the work of the Community Law Centres in providing access to justice for all people.
District Councils are urged to alert their Māori committees to the services that the Centres provide and to seek working arrangements with the centres for such initiatives as the conduct of group sessions at marae. District Māori Councils can work with the Community Law Centres in their area to develop mediation and arbitration capacities for managing domestic and marae disputes and issues.
NZMC will be discussing with government our concern to maintain the kanohi ki te kanohi Community Law services and our wish to develop closer working relationships between Māori communities and the centres.
Community Law Centres (CLCs)
Community Law provides free legal help throughout Aotearoa to the most vulnerable people in our society. Services provided by 25 Community Law Centres include legal information, advice, representation, education and law reform. Services are provided in areas of child and family disputes, employment protection, consumer rights, debt and criminal problems, neighbourhood disputes and countless other legal issues.
Community Law delivers services to individuals, their families and the wider community. It is an early-intervention legal service that benefits the individual, helps resolve family disputes, stops potential stress and violence, and can save the individual and family from escalated Court costs. It also frees up the legal system from costly Court, police and other interventions and reduces escalation costs to the Government and taxpayer.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is putting out to tender the contracts presently held by the 25 Community Law Centres (CLCs) around Aotearoa and has advised it expects in the future to tender for fewer than 25 contracts. In addition an exercise is being conducted to define the core services and cost models for the delivery of community legal services. Delivery of more services via 0800 phone, internet and skype services is being investigated. In reality Community Law is being put through a restructure.
One of the 25 CLCs is Ngāi Tahu CLC, based in Dunedin. It deals mainly with land dispute resolution for Iwi members of Ngai Tahu. So far MoJ has advised that continued funding is unlikely to be available for land dispute resolution.
Community Law Centres o Aotearoa (CLCA) is the newly formed national body which advocates on behalf of the sector. CLCA is working with MoJ and the CLCs through the restructuring process and the CLCs have discussed a spoke and hub structure for future delivery of community legal services to bring strength to the sector.
However CLCA and the CLCs are adamant that freely available services are maintained and are easily assessable to the most vulnerable in our society. The suggestion that more services should be delivered via 0800 phone, internet and skype services and fewer services be delivered by kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) services is of great concern.
The latest statistics from MoJ show that from 1 July 2011 to 31 March 2012 (9 months) a total of 39,755 people sought specific legal information, advice, and/or representation from the CLCs. Most of these services were delivered by kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) services. The significant ethnic breakdown shows:
- Pakeha – 21,264 representing 53% of the total
- Māori – 7517 representing 19% of the total
- Pacific Island – 3417 representing 8.5% of the total
- Asian – 2755 representing 7% of the total
- Others – 4802 representing 12.5% of the total (6)
With Māori at 14% of New Zealand’s population the statistics show Māori are disproportionately higher users of Community Law.
Māori are often uncomfortable with 0800 phone, internet or skype for delivery of services, those living in remote locations may not have telecommunication access and CLCA believes it is imperative that kanohi ki te kanohi Community Law services be freely available to Māori and other vulnerable communities in Aotearoa.