Rotorua lawyer Jason Pou has been elected as co-chairperson of Community Law Centres o Aotearoa - the national body that represents the interest of Community Law Centres across the country.
He will share the role with Canterbury community law advocate Jenny Hughey.
Pou is a board member of the Rotorua District Community Law Centre and is a trustee on a number of charitable trusts. In his legal practice – Tu Pono Legal – he regularly advises small to medium sized businesses, iwi trust boards, runanga and not-for-profit organisations.
Pou said he was proud to be given the opportunity to contribute to the work of Community Law, which provided free legal services to 50,000 clients per year.
"Community Law provides an essential service, ensuring all New Zealanders have access to justice – regardless of their financial or social circumstances."
Pou and Hughey take the reins from Cameron Madgwick, who stepped down at the organisation's recent annual general meeting after more than 20 years volunteering with Community Law.
His co-chairperson Bernadette Arapere retired in July.
Hughey was a long-time volunteer in the community law movement and is on the board of Community Law Canterbury. She is Community Governance manager at Christchurch City Council and has had leadership roles in a range of community organisations including mediation, women's, community justice and school trustee boards.
Community Law Centres o Aotearoa chief executive Liz Tennet said the organisation was privileged to have two strong leaders stepping up at a time when Community Law was looking to a more secure future with increased funding earmarked by the Government.
She paid tribute to Madgwick's contribution of many years and the highlights of his time with Community Law.
"Cameron has been with the organisation since he was a student, volunteering at the Wellington and Hutt Valley Community Law Centre.
"He has played a significant role in establishing the national body, maintaining funding for Community Law Centres in a constrained funding environment, and securing significant recurring non-government funding through the Lawyers and Conveyancers Special Fund.
"He has left Community Law in a strong position to provide more and better services to clients – delivering access to justice for all New Zealanders."