Legal aid payments have risen for the seventh straight year, according to numbers from the Ministry of Justice.
Gross legal aid payments for the year through 30 June totalled $158.32m, up 10.4% from the $143.38m paid to legal aid providers in 2016-17. This is the highest total payments after major changes to legal aid in 2011, the Law Society said.
The number of providers increased to 1,205 from 1,193. Average payment also increased to $131,384 in 2017-18, from $120,184 in 2016-17. Median legal aid payment jumped to $90,497 from $83,152.
The figures released by the ministry include fees of approved providers, including those claimed on behalf of other approved providers, and disbursements for general office costs, travel costs, and special disbursements, which include fees for agents, expert witnesses, forensic tests, interpreters and special reports, such as medical or valuation reports.
Seven providers received payments of more than $1m, the highest was Auckland’s Tamaki Legal with payments amounting to $1.79m.
The other highest-paid legal aid providers were Wellington’s Cooper Legal with $1.64m, Rotorua’s Lance Lawson with $1.36m, Gisborne’s Woodward Chrisp Lawyers with $1.36m, Auckland’s Te Mata Law with $1.12m, Rotorua’s Annette Sykes & Co Ltd with $1.06m, and Christchurch’s Ebborn Law Limited $1m.
There were 548 providers, or 45%, that received gross payments of more than $100,000.