Westpac NZ is boosting its financial support for Community Law Centres o Aotearoa (CLCA) to provide greater certainty and enable community law centres to help more vulnerable clients.
By law, funds held in solicitors’ nominated trust accounts may earn no interest. Instead, banks are required to pay 60% of the interest that would have been earned to the New Zealand Law Society’s Lawyers and Conveyancers Special Fund. This is used to help fund community law centres.
In addition to the 60%, Westpac NZ has agreed to pass on half of the sum it is entitled to retain. That extra is expected to exceed $2m in 2023.
Westpac NZ General Counsel Stephen O’Brien says the new arrangement will increase the total amount going to the CLCA and provide the organisation with greater certainty about cashflow.
“The CLCA does a fantastic job of supporting vulnerable people in our communities and greater and fairer access to the justice system for all.
“We expect the new funding arrangement will mean over $2 million in extra assistance for the CLCA in the 2023 financial year alone based on current interest rates and balances.
“As well as the extra money, providing more predictable levels of funding will help with their planning and the services they provide.”
CLCA CEO Sue Moroney says CLCA is grateful and relieved that Westpac NZ has recognised the on-going unmet legal needs across New Zealand by making this new commitment to funding.
“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.
“The timing of this funding boost could not be better for the increased legal needs of those communities hit by the recent cyclones. I know the affected community law centres will make good use of these funds to get back on their feet to assist their communities.
“Westpac NZ now joins BNZ and TSB in providing additional support to improve access to justice. CLCA is continuing discussions with remaining banks to reinstate their support.”
Under a prior 2016 agreement, Westpac NZ also made an additional donation calculated by reference to the level of the Official Cash Rate (OCR). As the OCR increased that amount had reduced and ultimately dropped to zero.
The new arrangement took effect from 1 December 2022.