The Dunedin Community Law Centre offers free legal advice and information, representation and education to the people of Otago.
The information below is from its December newsletter:
Funding in 2013
Law Centres around the country are waiting to hear from the Ministry of Justice as to whether or not there will be funding available to allow their services to be provided beyond June 2013. Changes to the decision making process were disclosed to the Law Centres at the end of September, but no further information is available to date. The Ministry was hoping to get information to the Minister before Christmas.
This has made planning very difficult. Some may have noticed that our Annual Open Day did not occur this year, as the Dunedin community Law Centre wanted to gain some clarity about the future, to be able to provide some meaningful information to the community, about any changes that may have been coming.
In the meantime, the Dunedin Community Law Centre is as busy as ever this year, and continues in its work of providing free legal advice and assistance to the Otago community, through its qualified and registered legal staff, and its volunteers – law students, and qualified supervising solicitors.
For those who are not familiar with the Law Centre, we provide:
- Free legal advice and information to the public, through clinics operating during the day and evening to advise on any legal issue – our most common areas are Family, Employment, Debt, Tenancy, Police, Social Welfare, Consumer, Wills, Neighbours, Enduring Powers of Attorney as well as many others.
- Casework and assistance to help people through tricky legal situations, involving Insurance, Debt, Neighbour, Consumer Issues, Welfare, Housing and Flatting, Cars and Education issues.
- Representation in the District Court for criminal and traffic matters for those who will not qualify for legal aid, and cannot afford a lawyer.
- Representation in Employment mediation, Benefit issues
- All legal advice and information is provided either directly by or under the direct supervision of qualified and registered lawyers. We have strict rules in place regarding confidentiality and service standards that bind all qualified lawyers.
- Legal Education: We go out into the community and talk to groups about areas of law that people have requested – mostly consumer, traffic and police, employment, tenancy and flatting.
- Law reform: The latest submissions related to the car crushing legislation, and the DCC housing strategy proposal.
- Statutory Declarations and Witness Documents: Our qualified legal staff are able to take statutory declarations, witness documents, and sign off 18+ cards.
- Outreach clinics – The Law Centre paid staff also provide its services to the wider Otago community through the provision of rural legal advice clinics in Alexandra, Cromwell, Queenstown, Wanaka, Oamaru, and Balclutha and through providing an 0800 number.
A community worker also provides a necessary service of obtaining legal assistance in a wide range of circumstances for the small, isolated Maori community.
The urban clinics are provided through a booking system and available in South Dunedin and Mosgiel.
In addition to this, the Law Centre staff are frequently asked to advise and assist with the formulation, incorporation and registration of new charitable legal entities. Less fortunately we are also called upon to assist with dispute resolution within, and finally dissolution of some charitable legal entities as well. We are also contacted by community agencies to assist with their work in clarifying legal issues that they are helping their clients resolve. We also try to minimise disputes by giving clear legal advice to parties who may wish to pursue a course of action that does not have a basis in law.
Through this work, the Law Centre provides services to 8000 people a year.
2012 in review
We have been particularly busy this year, with issues relating to credit, family and employment. July in Dunedin especially seems to be a grim month for everybody, when there is an influx of flatting, family, and neighbour disputes.
We have a philosophy of assisting people to resolve their issues as much as they can under their own steam, but this is not always possible. Then we can step in and work to achieve a satisfactory outcome. November is neighbour’s month, as people get busy in the backyard – fences, trees and hedges causing trouble between neighbours.
The Law Centre – once it has some certainty around funding, would like to continue to work with initiatives to set up a Community Mediation service, an online service, and the expansion of our community legal education programme.
The Law Centre will hold its last advice clinic for the year on Friday 21st December 12.30-2.00pm. The office will close at 2pm on the same day.
The advice clinics and the office will open again on Monday 14 January 2012.