Students yesterday took to the streets and tipped over rubbish bins to protest against the changes to student loans.

At its height, about 400 University of Auckland students gathered on Symonds St for the Blockade the Budget protest, closing most of the busy road to motorists and buses.

The Government yesterday outlined the changes to student loans including increasing the student loan repayment rate from 10 cents to 12 cents, removing the voluntary repayment bonus and removing eligibility for student allowances for postgraduate study.

Read all of's Budget coverage here.


Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the changes would save $240.3 million this year with a further $65 to $74 million a year of operating savings over the next four years.

"We have one of the most generous student support systems in the world. Rebalancing it allows us to free up money we can reinvest in improving the quality of tertiary education we provide, and help our overall fiscal position," said Mr Joyce.

Student activist Jai Bentley-Payne said the Government was trying to take away their right to an education and was trying to make it a business.

"The Government is taking punitive measures and is saddling students with more debt ... education is being re-coded away from what was once a social good for the benefit of a healthy democratic society into something that's basically for a few wealthy people."

Yesterday's protest lasted more than four hours, starting with enthusiastic chants, including "Steven Joyce, you stupid clown, do you think our heads are down" and "John Key's a wanker", but over the afternoon, the protest slowly dwindled to about 100 people sitting in the middle of the road sharing a megaphone around.

A similar action took place on the Parliament steps in Wellington, with more than 60 people protesting about student allowances and child poverty.


Pania Newton is in her fourth year of study and has at least two years to go, but she's not sure how she will afford to continue without a student allowance.

The 22-year-old law and health sciences student at Auckland University will no longer be eligible for the weekly funding from the Government.

"Without that financial support, I'll have to look elsewhere for that funding so I'll have to get a part-time job or something. But I'm already doing a specialised degree so the study load is quite heavy and so getting a part-time or a full-time job, I don't think I'll cope with studying as well."

Ms Newton is also worried about the increased student loan repayment rate once she leaves university.

"Another two cents doesn't seem like much, but graduates coming out of university are earning tens of thousands of dollars less than people who have been in their jobs for five or 10 years. So 12 cents, coming out as a graduate, is actually going to be quite difficult."