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|Motto||The voice of New Zealand's 400,000 students|
|Location||Wellington, New Zealand|
|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.
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. 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. Although NZUSA had campaigned against VSM for fifteen years, in 2012 all students' associations were required to be voluntary.
Activists from other associations assisted in all of these campaigns.
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.
In August 2013, Waikato Students' Union announced that it would "temporarily withdraw" from NZUSA. 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.
Subsequently referendums were held at OUSA and VUWSA as to whether they should stay members of the national union. 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). President Clark said:
|“||Students gave us the mandate to stay if there were significant reforms. There haven’t been. Now what’s important is having the conversation to make sure there’s a strong national voice on student issues, in a more effective use of $45,000 student dollars. We take our fiduciary responsibility with students’ money seriously.||”|
In response, NZUSA President Daniel Haines said he was
|“||disappointed but not surprised ... I think it reflects the extreme financial hardship that students’ associations are now facing. I also think it’s important that organisations review themselves and are critical of their performance, and that’s what this is....VUWSA is one of our founding members, and hopefully we can continue to work with them going forward.||”|
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."
NZUSA President Daniel Haines criticised OUSA for a lack of communication over their concerns, and responded to the withdrawal by saying:
|“||it concerns me that this decision will diminish the collective power of NZUSA ... It will be harder to do things without a united front. I am concerned how we will look to politicians if we approach them as separate parties. No one wants to talk to twelve different people when they could talk to one.||”|
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.
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.
Victoria University students voted in late 2015 in a referendum to have VUWSA rejoin the national union.
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  and the current sitting NWRO is Izzy O'Neill.
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