Opt-out bill for student unions labelled a threat to vital services

By Derek Cheng

Heather Roy. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Heather Roy. Photo / Mark Mitchell

University and polytech sports services and cultural events could be in jeopardy, say opponents of a bill that would allow individual students to choose if they want to join a student association.

The education and science select committee yesterday endorsed the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill, even though more than 90 per cent of submissions were against it.

Most institutions have universal membership of student associations, but Auckland University has a voluntary policy. Waikato University went to voluntary membership and returned to compulsory a year later.

Act MP Heather Roy, who is promoting the legislation, said many associations were wasteful or partisan and against the views of the wider student body.

Others, such as Whitireia Polytechnic's student union, have allegedly misappropriated up to $750,000.

"Making membership voluntary will ensure associations are more accountable to those they claim to support," Mrs Roy said.

If passed, the bill would take effect from 2012, although the Labour Party has already pledged to repeal it.

In its minority report, Labour said the bill would "destroy the representation, advocacy and services that tertiary students receive from student associations, and as a result will undermine the educational success and campus experience of many students".

Green Party tertiary education spokesman Gareth Hughes said the bill would hit tertiary providers hard, as they would have to fork out for services traditionally run by student associations.

"National has sided with Act in what appears to be an ideological solution."

- NZ Herald

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