Students and seniors at odds over asset sales

Switched on: Otago University Students' Association leader Logan Edgar says if the numbers stack...
Switched on: Otago University Students' Association leader Logan Edgar says if the numbers stack up he would prefer the OUSA to buy shares in state-owned electricity companies rather than endorse a campaign to stop government asset sales.
The generation gap is now a gulf - a gulf of dismay.

Local Grey Power president Jo Millar has been told the Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) would not march with senior citizens protesting government asset sales.

Instead, OUSA president Logan Edgar is considering using student money to buy shares in state-owned power companies.

Mrs Millar was deeply disappointed when she heard the news.

‘‘I don't know whether the students really understand,'' Mrs Millar said.

‘‘I really don't know whether they have researched it properly.''

The Otago branch of senior citizens advocacy group Grey Power is organising a public march along George St in the middle of next month to protest the Government's planned partial sale of four energy companies and the sale of Air NZ.

Mrs Millar hoped it would have the same high level of public support given to last year's marches to retain neurosurgery services in Dunedin.

The nationwide Keep Our Assets campaign - involving protest marches and a petition seeking a referendum on the sales - has input from a variety of organisations including Grey Power and the New Zealand University Students Association (NZUSA).

On Tuesday, Mrs Millar had had no replies to her emails seeking a meeting with OUSA representatives, but was still hoping to include students in the planned protest.

Students were ‘‘our grandchildren'' and Grey Power members wanted to work with them ‘‘so they can understand how we are trying to protect their future'', she said.

But, when contacted by The Star, Mr Edgar said he had ‘‘no interest whatsoever'' in the protest.

OUSA would look to invest in shares when the assets were put up for sale, Mr Edgar said.

‘‘We'd do it to keep some lights on for studying students and to keep them [the energy companies] New Zealand-owned,'' he said.

Mr Edgar said he and other OUSA members were meeting bank advisers today to discuss investment options. He did not know how much money OUSA had available to invest.

The results of an informal OUSA online survey of student opinion on the asset sales was ‘‘not heavily weighted one way or the other''.

Mrs Millar said the OUSA response was ‘‘not going to stop me one little bit''.

She questioned whether the decision was supported by most students.

‘‘Has there been a majority decision saying they don't want to take part?'' she said.

‘‘Any university students who want to join the march are more than welcome.''

NZUSA president Pete Hodkinson, of Wellington, said his organisation had ‘‘frozen all comment on asset sales'' until after a board meeting next week.

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