Auckland Community Law Centre opened its doors as the Grey Lynn Neighbourhood Law Office in June 1977. We were the first community law centre in Aotearoa New Zealand, originally established as a pilot to test the community law centre model. This pilot proved successful, and now there are community law centres across the country.
The impetus to establish a law centre in Auckland came from the need to provide access to justice for Māori and Pacific Island communities, which research showed were missing out. The inner city suburb of Grey Lynn was the ideal location in 1977 with its strong and vibrant Māori and Pacific communities.
The original centre was established through community collaboration. Both local lawyers and the Grey Lynn community worked together to make the Neighbourhood Law Office possible. Key founding local lawyers included Robert Ludbrook, Bruce Slane, Brian Lynch, and Piers Davies. The centre’s founding lawyers undertook detailed research to determine where a community law centre was most needed and how it could be set up, and presented the resulting report to the Auckland District Law Society.
Funding for the law centre came from both the New Zealand Law Society and the Auckland District Law Society. Even from the start, we drew on a huge number of volunteer lawyer hours, and depended on the support of the Auckland legal community. The road was not always easy – at times the law centre faced closure. We were able to survive with ad hoc yet generous support from a range of organisations, including Auckland City Council.
In 1987 the members of the Auckland District Law Society agreed at a general meeting to a levy being imposed on all its members.
Time has proven this model to be a huge success. The success of the original organisation led to the establishment of more law centres. There are now 24 law centres across Aotearoa New Zealand.
While our office was physically located in Grey Lynn until 2014, we have long served a much wider area of the central Auckland community (including the Central Western suburbs, the Central City, the Eastern suburbs, Panmure, Glen Innes and the North Shore). So, in 2013, we decided to move to a more central location to meet the needs of our diverse communities more effectively.
In February 2015, we moved to our current premises in level 1 of the Tasman Building at 16-22 Anzac Ave, Auckland Central. We have been fortunate enough to acquire premises that suit the needs of the law centre as well as being close to major bus and train services.
Our physical move naturally prompted a change in name. There is much history behind the name of Grey Lynn Neighbourhood Law Office and for this reason, we took care to ensure that an appropriate new name was given to the law centre. Our heritage will not be forgotten. The new name aligns more closely with how our clients tend to identify – as residents of Auckland City.