Bouncing back after tough times
Tairawhiti Community Law Centre has been providing access to justice for people who cannot afford it since 2000.
Community law centres are funded by the Ministry of Justice to provide access to justice and free community legal services.
For nine years, up to early 2018, there was no increase in government funding, while costs continued to rise.
As its financial situation became increasingly difficult TCLC had to make tough decisions, including suspending some outreach programmes up the Coast.
TCLC chairwoman Ruth Quilter said “things were very tough, so much so that some feared the closure of the centre”.
“As funding restraints became critical, we were forced to consider alternative funding avenues.
“The board saw a fund at The Sunrise Foundation as a way to assist with our fundraising efforts and help secure long-term financial sustainability for the vital community service.”
Although a long overdue increase of government funding for community law centres was announced early last year, the TCLC board remained committed to growing its endowment fund as a way of having some form of sustainable funding that was not reliant on government funding.
Ms Quilter said the increase in funding was a welcome respite.
“But we know from experience that governments and funding come and go, the board hopes our fund will help give financial security to the centre in the long run.”
The increase in funding has allowed TCLC to address some operational shortfalls and it can now work on growing its services.
A senior supervising lawyer was recently commissioned to provide Notary Public services — a unique service not available anywhere else in Gisborne.
TCLC general manager Gillian Creach, a regular donor to the TCLC fund, likes that she is helping to build “a local nest egg and valuable resource for the community”.
She donates a small amount every week through workplace giving.
Every pay day $15 is automatically deducted from her wages and sent to Sunrise. Because $5 of that is an automatic tax rebate, she is only actually out of pocket $10 per week.
She sees it as a valuable thing to do and likes that her little drops help make the bucketful bigger.
“My workplace giving is only the cost of a couple of coffees a week but it has added up. I’ve donated nearly $1500 over the past three years.”
She is one of four people donating to the TCLC fund regularly through workplace giving.
Along with several small donations from TCLC Trust, their regular donations have seen the fund grow to nearly $8500, which shows that giving a small amount regularly does make a difference.
Ms Quilter said perpetuity and accountability were key factors in the board’s decision to establish the fund.
“Endowments are invested for the long term in managed funds and Sunrise only retains one percent each year to cover administrative costs.
“We don’t have to be concerned with how much of our fund is being siphoned off for other things. It is really transparent.”
All donations to the Tairawhiti Community Law Centre Endowment Fund are invested, protected and grown to keep up with inflation.
The surplus investment income will be returned to the centre every year, forever.