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Lawyers Thwarting A Community Law Centre

Lawyers Thwarting A Community Law Centre

The West Coast legal profession should be ashamed of its role in preventing a community law centre operating here, says Democrats for Social Credit health spokesman David Tranter.

The documents relating to previous efforts to re-establish the Coast's previous law centre show that with few exceptions the local legal profession have followed a path of self-interest which reveals a thoroughly un-caring attitude towards the many Coasters who need legal advice but have no hope of paying for it, Mr. Tranter said.

Not all Coast lawyers are against a law centre. In a letter written in 2000 Greymouth lawyer Tony Sullivan stated, "I believe that there is a need for a Community Law Centre presence throughout the Westland District". However at a Greymouth public meeting called by local lawyers a few years ago and which I attended their message was that there was no need for a community law centre because plenty of free advice available to those that need it. If that is the case then the legal profession here should spell out exactly how this free advice may be accessed, Mr. Tranter said.

In a letter dated 21.8.2000 the then ceo of Tai Poutini Polytechnic Don Campbell wrote "....our Greymouth students are generally not able to afford legal advice and would welcome the opportunity offered by a free service". Similar letters of support were written by the Grey District Residents and Ratepayers' Association, the West Coast Unemployed and Workers' Rights Centre, the West Coast Regional Council, West Coast Well Women's Centre, Westland branch of the National Council of Women, the Grey District GROW group, and the Christchurch Community Law Centre.

Given the obvious need why has nothing happened? Quite simply, because, as stated by the Executive Director of the Legal Services Board in Wellington, "The Westland (District Legal Services) Committee has for the last eight years taken the view that it's district does not need a centre" (Letter to the Greymouth Evening Star, 15.6.2000).

Given the ever-increasing complexity of legal maters affecting the general public it is appalling to note Damien O'Connor's recent public comments that he does not think the Coast needs a community law centre. Since the Nelson Bays Community Law Centre has proposed opening a branch in Westport within the next year because of the high number of queries from Buller and to open outreach clinics in Reefton and Karamea it would appear that a Nelson Bays organisation is more interested in West Coast people's well-being than the local M.P., Mr. Tranter said.


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