Budget 2022 provides a significant, and transformative, investment in the justice system.
It supports initiatives to transform the way the justice system works – Te Ao Mārama, Te Au Reka (previously Caseflow management) and a new victims operating model.
It will strengthen access to justice and support the delivery of critical services that enable people to participate fully and meaningfully in the justice system.
It provides resources to address delays in the courts and in the coronial system.
Have a look at the Ministry of Justice’s website if you’d like to find out more about the wider Budget package, but one of the biggest changes you will see is the significant funding boost for legal aid.
As the legal profession is well aware, the legal aid system is under significant strain.
Access to justice has been denied to thousands of people who have been turned away as lawyers don’t have the capacity to take on more clients.
The effect on the legal profession has been just as apparent, and understandably providers are reluctant to take on more legal aid work.
The eligibility criteria have also excluded people who need help.
The New Zealand Law Society has played an effective role in advocating for changes in a constructive way, and providing real evidence to back its calls.
I also acknowledge the work of the Law Society, led by the current president immediate past president Tiana Epati and current president Jacque Lethbridge to advocate for changes to legal aid. I have very much appreciated the insights you have offered and the constructive way in which you have engaged on these issues.
Budget 2022 contains an investment of $148.7m over four years, which has allowed us to implement changes to legal aid settings.
Budget 2022 also provides funding of $41.4m over four years to cover the costs of existing demand for legal aid services, based on projections through until 2024/25.
I am confident the Budget 2022 measures will mean more people will be able to access the scheme and get legal advice.
I also appreciate these changes have taken time, and that there have been past disappointments. Some members of the profession may consider that not enough assistance has been provided to the legal aid scheme through Budget 2022.
As with all budgets, the Government needs to balance its available funding across a range of important initiatives, and the changes this year form part of a broader package that will support significant change in the justice system.
It will be vital to keep engaging with the legal profession as these changes are introduced, to see what is working and what could be better, and I thank you all for the work you do to support vulnerable New Zealanders.