Three of New Zealand’s major banks have agreed to extend their partnership with Community Law, pledging to make an annual multi-million dollar donation to the organisation.
Announced Thursday, the extended partnership between ANZ, ASB and Westpac goes beyond current relevant legislation.
For the last 25 years, banks have paid interest from solicitors’ nominated trust accounts to a Lawyers and Conveyancers Special Fund.
Interest is not normally paid to lawyers and conveyancers on such accounts. Each year around $6 million is paid by the major banks to this fund and that amount helps to fund Community Law Centres.
However, given the increased needs of Community Law, ANZ, ASB and Westpac have agreed to voluntarily increase their annual contributions over and above their legislative requirements and to donate this additional amount directly to Community Law.
Twenty-four Community Law Centres work out of over 140 locations across New Zealand to provide free legal help and advice to those who are unable to pay for a private lawyer or who do not have access to legal aid.
This advice covers all aspects of New Zealand’s legal system, including family law, employment issues, housing problems, consumer advice and criminal law.
As well as around 170 staff, Community Law’s services are boosted by over 1,200 volunteer lawyers who run clinics and deliver free advice and assistance.
“This is a clear demonstration of social responsibility by the banks and their commitment to a healthy civil society,” Community Law Centres o Aotearoa Co-Chairs Cameron Madgwick and Bernadette Arapere said in a statement.
The Co-Chairs say that partnership with the banks eases Community Law’s funding needs for the future.
“Our 24 Community Law Centres are at the heart of our democracy, providing access to justice to the most vulnerable in our society and ensuring they can solve their problems early. This means their problems are less likely to escalate and it takes pressure off the wider justice system,” they said.
“Community Law wants to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge ANZ, ASB and Westpac for their strong display of social responsibility in partnering with Community Law to help build stronger and more resilient communities in Aotearoa.
“They saw what needed to be done and made sure that it happened.”
BNZ and TSB came to a separate agreement with Community Law in 2014 to increase their contributions to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Special Fund.
Kiwibank is not part of any agreement with Community Law as it does not operate nominated trust accounts and therefore doesn’t contribute to the Lawyer and Conveyancers’ Special Fund.