Budget 2012: Student blockade of street ends

Auckland university students block traffic at the intersection of Symonds Street, Grafton Road and Alfred Street, during a student protest today. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Auckland university students block traffic at the intersection of Symonds Street, Grafton Road and Alfred Street, during a student protest today. Photo / Steven McNicholl

A student protest that blocked a central Auckland street for most of the afternoon has ended.

About 400 Blockade the Budget protesters, with support from the Auckland University Students' Association, took to the Symonds St intersection with Grafton Rd to oppose National's budget reforms this afternoon.

The budget negatively affected students, as well as middle and lower income citizens, the group said.

The protestors stayed at the intersection until 6pm, when the protest moved around several streets in the area before returning to the intersection.

The protest ended shortly before 6.30pm, with the remaining students moving to the quad area of the Auckland University campus.

Auckland Transport said all diversions around Auckland University and Symonds St were lifted by 6.35pm. Traffic and buses are now operating as usual.

Denise French, a third year student, said in a statement they were striking to fight back against the attacks the 2012 Budget waged on students, workers and families.

"Borrowing to live is intergenerational theft. The politicians in the Beehive had free tertiary education, and many received living allowances too.''

A record number of New Zealanders left the country in the last three months, breaking up families and resulting in a brain drain, she said.

About 300 to 400 protesters were completely blocking the Grafton Rd/Symonds St area, police said.

Auckland University Students Association president Arena Williams said the change would mean about 5000 existing students would not be able to get student allowances to finish their degrees.

"The Government is proposing to alter pre-existing student loan contracts, to change the repayment rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent. That seems like a small increase, but it hits recent graduates hard, at a time in their lives when they're not earning much and they're trying to get on to the first rungs of a tough New Zealand career ladder,'' she said.

According to students on Twitter using the #blockadethebudget hashtag, the protest is against "harsh changes to student support" in today's Budget.

The student group, We are the University, announced this morning there would be protests at both the University of Auckland and Victoria University in Wellington, in opposition of the Budget and impending cuts to student allowances.

"It will affect current students, ex-students and potential future students by limiting allowances to the first four years of study or 200 weeks (with no exceptions for longer degrees or postgrad study), by freezing the parental income threshold to get the allowance (so even fewer students can get it), and increasing the repayment rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent, " the group said. "We have had enough of the short sighted, mindless politics of austerity that limit who gets access to tertiary education and that see us paying rent to a generation that had everything they are taking from us."

- Herald Online

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