So What is Legal Aid?

Legal Aid is available to Claimants to pay their legal costs for Waitangi Tribunal proceedings and, in some instances, settlement negotiations with the Crown.

Who Can Get It?

Legal aid generally applies to individuals, but legal aid for Waitangi Tribunal claims is made available to iwi, hapu or whānau groups. The reason for this difference is due to an agreement with the Crown by Māori following a case taken by Māori organisations against the Crown in 1987. The agreement enabled individual Māori to apply for legal aid for Treaty claims on behalf of whānau, hapu or iwi.

What is Involved?

The application forms used to be very detailed and ask for statements about income and assets. The current form merely requires an individual, usually the named claimant, to fill in their name and detail the Treaty claim that is the subject of the application for legal aid. Applicants are still asked whether they know of organisations or individuals who can contribute to the legal costs of the claim. The name of the lawyer who represents the claim is also included in the application forms. Once the form has been completed, it must be witnessed by a JP or solicitor.

The $50.00 contribution is no longer required.

What Should I Look Out For?

It should be remembered that legal aid is a loan not a grant. What this means is that, in theory, the Legal Services Agency can require legal aid to be repaid by the individual who has received the legal aid. The Legal Services Agency has not done this in the past for Waitangi Tribunal proceedings. It should also be noted that if a claimant group negotiates a Treaty settlement with the Crown, the Legal Services Agency cannot ask that part of the settlement be paid back to it.

Waitangi Tribunal proceedings involve complex litigation and are expensive. Your legal representatives have to provide the Legal Services Agency with detailed estimates of legal costs for the claim usually for 3 month periods at a time.

The legally aided person must be sent up-to-date accounts of legal fees, generally on a monthly basis, and has the right to complain to the Legal Services Agency if they are not satisfied with the legal services they are receiving.

Where To From Here?

If you require more information about Legal Aid and Waitangi Tribunal proceedings or would like copies of a Waitangi Legal Aid application form please contact us on 0800 729 529.