Student dismay as VSM bill passed

Controversial legislation to cut mandatory membership of student associations was passed at Parliament this evening.

The passage of the Bill, first proposed by retiring Act MP Heather Roy, effectively rubber-stampied the demise of compulsory membership of student associations.

Student associations expect to face a huge drop in revenue when membership becomes voluntary, a move which is expected to threaten the provision of student services, administration, and campus facilities.

The New Zealand University Students Association was disappointed by the passage of the bill.

From January 1 there would be no way students could ensure there was a mandated students' association on their campus, and institutions would be able to refuse to recognise an association, regardless of its membership figures, co-president Max Hardy said.

"There is no choice when there is no association to join. Many students and campuses will see their associations collapse under this new system. Others will see associations dependent and beholden to tertiary institutions.''

Co-president David Do said the vote showed the real disdain this Government had for students.

"In reality, National has shown none of their supposed pragmatism. Instead, National has chosen to enable the extreme ideology of a discredited fringe political party. By ignoring the overwhelming opposition, arguments, and evidence, National have shown their real colours.''

Mr Do said support for the Bill had been strongly concentrated in the ACT and National parties, not amongst the student population.

"Thousands of perspectives were raised against the Bill - not just from students, but from parents, graduates, universities, polytechnics, unions, community groups, Maori, and other individuals and groups in New Zealand and overseas. Tonight's vote ignores all these voices.''

ACT on Campus, however, was thrilled with the outcome.

"For almost 20 years, students have fought for their fundamental human right of Freedom of Association'', said ACT on Campus President Peter McCaffrey.

"Finally, students will be free to choose for themselves whether or not to join their students' association.''

Speaking at Parliament this afternoon, Heather Roy said compulsory membership had created an environment conducive to financial mismanagement.

Student unions were being governed and managed by young people who often lacked the necessary skills and experience to run a multi-million dollar business, and they had a captive market of students who could not vote with their feet if their funds were mismanaged.

Voluntary membership would mean associations would have to attract membership to gain funds then provide the representation and services students want in order to keep them.

"Freedoms are hard won and so easily eroded,'' she said. "Parliament's gift to students tonight is freedom of association. Please be sure to use it wisely.''

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter