Community Law Waikato - Te Tari Ture ā-Hapori o Waikato, is one of many community law centres across Aotearoa New Zealand. The centres operate in 140 locations, providing legal help to more than 250 thousand people per year.
We believe in a just and fair Aotearoa, with a mission to provide free legal services to those in the Waikato who are unable to access it.
Community Law Waikato ("the Centre") is a registered charitable trust and has been in operation since 1995. Three passionate individuals, one lawyer, one manager and a part time receptionist began a mission to meet the unmet legal need in Waikato.
Today, we have a paid team of 16 employees and an army of volunteers. The Centre is governed by a Board of Trustees who volunteer their time and expertise to support the various operational demands.
The Centre operates from a central hub based in Kirikiriroa Hamilton and can help people living in the entire Waikato region.
Although Community Law Waikato - Te Tari Ture ā-Hapori o Waikato, is a not for profit entity, we believe our clients expect and deserve a professional quality service. Community law centres are NOT exempt from compliance with the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act and Client Care and Conduct Rules.
Our service covers an extensive range of legal areas to cater for diverse community needs. In some instances, a client may only need basic legal advice or information, whereas in other instances a client may require further assistance or representation by a solicitor. Some matters only take an hour to resolve whereas some matters could take years to resolve.
The service delivery approach is holistic which identifies not only legal issues but also any contributing / underlying social factors. Referrals are made which address the client’s needs in a broader context, aiming to empower individuals so that in many instances, they can help themselves.
The mission of ensuring that all New Zealanders have access to legal services is a huge challenge. Unfortunately, limited resources means targeting the very highest need. Eligibility for service depends on the nature of the legal problem, financial means, and other factors that pose as barriers to access legal services such as debt, mental illness, and age.
Although a significant proportion of Community Law services could be described in the sense of “being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff”, another aspect of the service is about being the “fence at the top”. The emphasis on educating the community has grown over the years and it is a specific part of our contracted services. Education and information functions are designed to increase awareness of legal rights and obligations within the community as well as the availability of legal and other services.
All law Centres in New Zealand are voluntary members of a national body, Community Law Centres Aotearoa (CLCA). CLCA’s function is to support and coordinate the movement.
Community Law Waikato - Te Tari Ture ā-Hapori o Waikato, is a registered charitable trust.
All charities in New Zealand are regulated through Charities Service, Ngā Ratonga Kaupapa Atawhai, which is part of the Department of Internal Affairs. The Service administers the Charities Act 2005 with the purpose to promote public trust and confidence in the charitable sector. The Service’s functions include registration, monitoring, processing Annual Returns, and providing educational support and advice to charities.
Our Annual Returns are available on the Charities Register.
We also complete our own Annual Reports that accounts for our activities from year to year that can be viewed here.
Community Law Waikato - Te Tari Ture ā-Hapori o Waikato, is funded through a variety of streams with one of the main sources being a public fund.
The Lawyers and Conveyancers Special Fund is derived from interest accrued in firms’ Trust Accounts. Banks retain 40% of the interest (except those banks who donate another 20% to Community Law) and 60% is legislated to fund community legal services.
The public source of funding is unfortunately not enough to sustain community legal services. The government (Justice budget) tops up the funding (which fluctuates depending on where the special fund is sitting).
In May 2020 Community Law Centres nationwide welcomes a "small but important" budget increase, the first since 2008. Whilst this funding increase helps, community law centres struggle to recruit and retain staff due to budget restraints.
“A funding increase for Community Law was a commitment made in the Coalition Government Agreement and Budget 2020 adds to an important increase in baseline funding for our services during the term of this Government,” says Sue. “It is welcome relief for a service that struggled with flat-lined funding and increased demand for the previous decade.”
Community Law Waikato - Te Tari Ture ā-Hapori o Waikato, receive financial and other support through many organisations and grant schemes. We wish to acknowledge these contributions. There are so many and too many to name individually. Combined it enables us to deliver our mission and contribute to a fair, inclusive, and just society.
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1955)