The new arrangement will provide CLCA with ~$2m in additional financial support
Westpac NZ has bolstered its partnership with Community Law Centres o Aotearoa (CLCA) through a new funding arrangement that will provide the CLCA with “over $2m in extra assistance for the CLCA in the 2023 financial year alone”, according to Westpac NZ GC Stephen O’Brien.
O’Brien indicated that the estimate is based on “current interest rates and balances”. In addition to the increased financial support, the arrangement translates to “more predictable levels of funding” that will aid the CLCA in planning and service delivery.
Legally, funds in solicitors’ nominated trust accounts cannot earn interest; rather, banks must pay to the New Zealand Law Society’s Lawyers and Conveyancers Special Fund 60% of the interest that would have been earned in order to help support community law centres. In addition to this payout, Westpac NZ has opted to also give up half of the sum the bank is entitled to keep.
For CLCA CEO Sue Moroney “the timing of this funding boost could not be better” given the heightened need for legal aid following the recent cyclones, and she commended Westpac NZ for taking note of current unmet legal needs in the country.
“I know the affected community law centres will make good use of these funds to get back on their feet to assist their communities”, she said. “Rising inflation and the associated rise in interest rates have made legal support even less affordable for many people across Aotearoa and the distribution of these increased funds to our 24 community law centres helps them to bridge this gap”.
As per a previous agreement effected in 2016, Westpac NZ donated extra funding calculated based on the level of the official cash rate; as this rate rose, the amount eventually dropped to zero. The new funding arrangement, which was implemented on 1 December 2022, provides the CLCA with more cashflow certainty.
“The CLCA does a fantastic job of supporting vulnerable people in our communities and greater and fairer access to the justice system for all”, O’Brien said.
BNZ and TSB are two other banks that have offered CLCA greater support in pursuit of improved access to justice.