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Community Law Centres Back Bazely Review

Media Release
2 December 2009

Community Law Centres Back Bazely Review

Melanie Cookson, Co-convenor of the Coalition of Community Law Centres believes Dame Margaret Bazely has got it right when she states in her report on Legal Aid that ``community law centres are too important to be allowed to fail or to have their services restricted significantly’’.

As the report points out, a stronger focus on initial legal advice and assistance is needed ``to help make people more self-sufficient’’. The Bazely report highlights that if services provided by community law centres were not available, ``many of their clients would be unable to afford private legal services, so would go without’’.

Community law centres agree that they should become a significant player in the provision of legal services in the future ``but first we need to find a way to keep community law centres financially viable,’’ Cookson says. ``The Coalition is working closely with the Ministry of Justice on a range of potential funding solutions to ensure the recommendations in the report can be realised’’.

The Coalition agrees with Dame Margaret’s finding that ``stronger coordination between community law centres and central government’’ is needed to ensure community law centres are able to help the greatest number of people for the funding available.

The Coalition hopes that government policies creating, at times, unnecessary burdens and litigation, will also be re-examined in the light of the report. Dame Margaret is calling for the introduction of national standards which the Coalition supports and is actively working to establish.

The Coalition has a website offering legal information and assistance to the public on a national basis. We help people access justice by giving them a better understanding of the law. Given Dame Margaret’s findings and the failings of the legal system for

Maori it highlights the importance to quickly fill the gap created by the recent closure of Te Ratonga Ture Maori Legal Services, (TRT). To that end the Coalition is keen to, and has offered to, work with TRT, local Iwi, the community and LSA to address any issues and ensure much needed services for Maori can continue to be delivered. As Dame Margaret says ``if the legal aid system fails Maori, the system fails altogether.’’


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