New Zealand Law Society - Long-time Community Law chair steps down

Long-time Community Law chair steps down

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Cameron Madgwick
Cameron Madgwick

A lawyer credited with playing a leading role in solving a funding crisis for Community Law o Aotearoa (CLCA) is stepping down as its co-chair.

Cameron Madgwick is ending his work with Community Law Centres o Aotearoa after over 20 years involvement with the organisation. He’ll also cease being co-chair of Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley.

Mr Madgwick got involved with Community Law as a university student studying for his LLB.

“It’s such a fantastic organisation and group of people who are doing everything they can to ensure that those people who have the least ability to access justice can do so. It makes it hard to leave when there’s a purpose and goal like that. I didn’t think at the start it would be 20-odd years later, but when you see the huge difference it makes in peoples’ lives it motivates you to keep doing more,” he says.

He says leaving is about creating space for others to step in and play leadership roles.

“We’ve achieved a lot and I feel it’s time for new ideas to come to the fore to progress the movement even further.”

Volunteer to chair

Cameron Madgwick’s involvement began with Community Law as a volunteer lawyer at the Wellington & Hutt Valley Community Law Centre. He became its Chair in 2008.

Why he volunteered has a certain innocent quality to it. “Funnily, to begin with I followed a girl into Community Law and that was the initial motivation but once inside the tent so to speak, I found the connection to Community Law was stronger than the connection to the girl,” he says.

About a thousand people from various backgrounds are volunteers at Community Law centres, not just lawyers.

It’s no secret that a major challenge for Community Law Centres has always been a financial one. In 2010 Mr Madgwick took a practical approach to getting the best possible deal for Community Law Centres’ funding with the Ministry of Justice. It was a collective renegotiation, meaning all 26 centres were on the same page looking for the same outcome.

“Being able to go into the meeting as a group gave us the negotiating power we needed to get us on a more sustainable footing,” he says.

This led to the development of a governance structure for a national association. The year following the successful funding negotiations, Cameron Madgwick was elected Chair of Community Law Centres o Aotearoa. “Together you can achieve a lot more than individually and that was proven through those negotiations,” he says.

The future

Mr Madgwick says Community Law Centres have a critical place in the wider legal system.

“There will always be people who cannot access the more traditional legal services through private practice lawyers. There’s a high demand for their work and building up centres with the right resources to be able to do that work is the key going forward,” he says.

A report released in October entitled ‘The value of investing in Community Law Centres: An economic investigation, found the Community Law network was delivering up to $50 million of free legal services each year to New Zealanders for an annual investment of just $11 million.

It says Community Law Centres provided over 100,000 hours of advice, assistance or representation to at least 48,000 clients on more than 53,000 legal issues.

Cameron Madgwick is currently the chief executive of Petroleum Exploration and Production New Zealand (PEPANZ).

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