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New Zealand Union of Students' Associations

New Zealand Union of Students' Associations
NZUSA logo 2013.gif
Motto The voice of New Zealand's 400,000 students
Location Wellington, New Zealand
Established 1929
President Jonathan Gee (2017-)

The New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA) is a representative body that advocates for the interests of tertiary students in New Zealand. Between 1935 and 2006, it was known as the New Zealand University Students' Association, until it merged with the national polytechnic students' association.


The organisation was founded in 1929 as the New Zealand National Union of Students, and initially focussed its activities on sporting and social concerns. It changed its name to the New Zealand University Students' Association in 1935, and over time gave greater focus to issues concerning student welfare, such as student access to healthcare. It developed a strong involvement in social issues during the 1960s and 1970s, opposing the Vietnam War, apartheid, and racial immigration policies, as well as supporting homosexual law reform.[citation needed]

The association has a long history of advocating for its members by opposing NZ Government policies it viewed as not in the interests of students. During the 1990s and 2000s the New Zealand government and New Zealand universities made large increases in fees for students, and limited access to allowances for study. These changes attracted much criticism from the NZUSA. In the 2005 New Zealand general election the organisation strongly advocated in favour of policies it long held. These include reduction of student debt, and universal access to student allowances for full-time students. Such policy was supported by many minor parties, including the Greens, New Zealand First and United Future.[citation needed] The Fifth Labour Government introduced 0% interest on student loans policy, but the organisation continues to campaign against decreasing access to student allowances and systemic fee increases.

NZUSA campaigned against the introduction of voluntary student membership (VSM), arguing that students did support compulsory membership of students' associations. NZUSA proposed a policy compromise, suggesting a "KiwiSaver style" opt-out arrangement where students would be members unless they explicitly said they did not want to be.[1] Although NZUSA had campaigned against VSM for fifteen years, in 2012 all students' associations were required to be voluntary.[2]

Historical achievements

NZUSA Lobby Gains
  • 1988 allowances were themselves the result of 1985-1988 lobbying with officials
  • In 1992 alone NZUSA achieved $10 million in benefits for students by getting Community Service Cards for all students in face of Ministerial opposition
  • Prevented student loan repayments being applied to all jobs attracting secondary tax
  • 2000: Freeze on fees
  • 2010: Restrictions on increases in CSSFs
  • 2012: Collaborative partnership for utilizing the Student Voice
Gains though engagement
  • 2000: Review of loan scheme massively improves student experience and efficiency of delivery
  • 1929 - 2013: Constant involvement with government over regulations and procedures
  • 1996-2000: Students added to CUAP (committee of university academic programmes), AAU (academic audit unit), TEC Board and Learners' Advisory Committee
  • Expansion of the categories covered by the Ministerial Direction in 2011 and defending that in December 2012
  • 2012: enthusiastic support for learner panels and best practice Student Voice principles project
Gains though elections
  • 1999: Education number two issue; change of government
  • 2005: Interest-free loans policy assists re-election of Labour Government
  • 2008: Interest-free loans adopted as National Party policy
  • 2011: Labour Party commits to universal allowance policy (joining Greens)
Held VSM off for 15 years

Activists from other associations assisted in all of these campaigns.

  • 1996: Michael Laws VSM Bill is defeated in the Select Committee process
  • 1998: VSM Bill converted from imposing individual membership to requiring referendums
  • 2000: WSU returns to universal membership through a student vote
  • 2001: AuSM, WITSA and SAWIT return to universal membership
  • 2006: USU returns to universal membership
Wins for the tertiary sector
  • 1989: prevented a privatised loan-scheme by scaring off the banks
  • 1994: Todd Taskforce plan for increasing fees from $1500 to $7000 per year defeated
  • 1999: White Paper proposing privatization dropped by National Government after massive student protests
  • 2003: Introduction of fee maxima
  • 2009: National Party also adopts fee maxima policy
  • 2011: 120 of 121 MPs from parties supporting interest-free student loan policy

NZUSA after Voluntary Student Membership

A protest against Voluntary Student Membership in Wellington in December 2010

Since the introduction of voluntary student membership (VSM) in 2012, NZUSA has faced significant challenges. VSM led to the organisation no longer being guaranteed a revenue stream from member associations, and by 2012 its funding had decreased by a third as members cut their contributions due to financial hardship.[3]

Withdrawal of association memberships

In August 2013, Waikato Students' Union announced that it would "temporarily withdraw" from NZUSA.[4] In response, Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA), Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA) Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) put out a press release calling for significant reforms of NZUSA.[5]

Subsequently referendums were held at OUSA and VUWSA as to whether they should stay members of the national union.[6] The membership of both unions voted to stay part of the organisation, but the presidents at the respective organisations have promised substantial reforms.

In September 2014, VUWSA President Sonya Clark announced that after a unanimous vote by the executive, VUWSA would be withdrawing from the organisation (and had given its obligatory one-year notice of withdrawal).[7] President Clark said:

In response, NZUSA President Daniel Haines said he was

In November 2014, OUSA announced that it would also be withdrawing from NZUSA. Postgraduate Officer Kurt Purdon said NZUSA missed the opportunity to prove themselves in 2014, but instead of proving themselves, OUSA President Ruby Sycamore-Smith had single handedly done more for Otago students than NZUSA. He further said: "We lose credibility by being a part of them. Even if membership were free, I’d have serious questions about being a member."[8]

NZUSA President Daniel Haines criticised OUSA for a lack of communication over their concerns, and responded to the withdrawal by saying:

In January 2015, former-VUWSA President Rory McCourt was elected President of NZUSA. He planned to focus on original research and "one central campaign" in his term.[9]

A student elections banner at VUW in September 2015. The banner asks voters to vote in the upcoming referendum to stay in NZUSA.

In June 2015, after refusing for a number of months to pay its NZUSA membership fees, VUWSA agreed to pay its outstanding fees. (NZUSA argued that membership fees were still payable because VUWSA was in the 12-months-long withdrawal period.) The reversal came after NZUSA President Rory McCourt had waged a public campaign to get VUWSA to both reconsider its withdrawal from NZUSA and also to pay the fees outstanding.[10]

Victoria University students voted in late 2015 in a referendum to have VUWSA rejoin the national union.


North Island

South Island



List of Association Presidents, Co-Presidents, and Vice-Presidents

2012–2013 President Pete Hodkinson speaking at TEU event in 2013
2010–2011 Co-president David Do speaking at a protest in 2010
  • 2017- – Jonathan Gee
  • 2016 – Linsey Higgins
  • 2015 – Rory McCourt
  • 2014 – Daniel Haines
  • 2013 – Pete Hodkinson
  • 2012 – Pete Hodkinson
  • 2011 – David Do & Max Hardy
  • 2010 – David Do & Pene Delaney
  • 2009 – Jordan King & Sophia Blair
  • 2008 – Liz Hawes & Paul Falloon
  • 2007 – Joey Randall & Josh Clark
  • 2006 – Joey Randall & Connor Roberts
  • 2005 – Andrew Kirton & Camilla Belich
  • 2004 – Andrew Kirton & Fleur Fitzsimmons
  • 2003 – Roz Connelly and Fleur Fitzsimons
  • 2002 – Andrew Campbell and Charlie Chambers
  • 2001 – Sam Huggard and Andrew Campbell
  • 2000 – Tanja Schutz and Sam Huggard
  • 1999 – Karen Skinner and Tanja Schutz
  • 1998 – Sarah Helm and Patrick Rooney
  • 1997 – Michael Gibbs
  • 1996 – Grant Robertson and Alayna Ashby
  • 1995 – Paul Williams
  • 1994 – Jeremy Baker
  • 1993 – Kirsty Graham
  • 1992 – Dan Ormond
  • 1991 – Charlotte Denny/Emma Reid
  • 1990 – Suze Wilson
  • 1989 – Andrew Little
  • 1988 – Andrew Little
  • 1987 – Bidge Smith
  • 1986 – Alex Lee/Bidge Smith
  • 1985 – Jess Wilson
  • 1984 – Jess Wilson
  • 1983 – Robin Arthur
  • 1982 – Brian Small
  • 1981 – Deryck Shaw
  • 1980 – Simon Wilson
  • 1979 – Chris Gosling
  • 1978 – Lisa Sacksen
  • 1977 – Lisa Sacksen
  • 1976 – John Blincoe
  • 1975 – Alick Shaw
  • 1974 – Jim Crichton

Tertiary Women New Zealand

Tertiary Women New Zealand (TWNZ) is a sub-group of NZUSA, dedicated to advocacy on behalf of women in tertiary education across the country. It comes from a position that acknowledges the systematic oppression of women and also considers how this intersects with class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and ability. TWNZ is composed of women's associations at tertiary institutions across the country [11] and the current sitting NWRO is Izzy O'Neill.[11]

See also


  1. ^ "Students have better alternative to VSM - NZUSA". 3 News. 27 September 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Our Successes". New Zealand Union of Students' Associations. 
  3. ^ a b c d Boot, Sophie (25 September 2014). "VUWSA withdraws from NZUSA". Salient. Wellington. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Pearl, Harry (2 August 2013). "WSU withdraws from national body". Waikato Times. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Elder, Vaughan (24 August 2013). "OUSA joins call to rally". Otago Dailty Times. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  6. ^ McChesney, Sam (1 September 2013). "NZUSA in the Toilet: Hernandez Not Yet Ready to Flush". Critic magazine. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  7. ^ "Vic students to leave NZUSA under VSM cloud". New Zealand Tertiary Education Union. 2 October 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c Cochrane, Josie (27 November 2014). "OUSA Withdraws From NZUSA". Critic. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  9. ^ McChesney, Sam (30 January 2015). "VUWSA Experiencing Confidence Issues After NZUSA Hooks Up With Its Ex". Salient magazine. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  10. ^ McChesney, Sam (12 June 2015). "NZUSA rides the alimony pony". Salient. Retrieved 14 June 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Tertiary Women New Zealand". New Zealand Union of Students' Associations. Archived from the original on 2015-07-19. 

External links