This week's Newsmaker is Virgil Iraia who is Waiariki Institute of Technology's 2016 Student Association president. He talked to us this week about Labour's free tertiary education policy.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm 24, and in my final year of study at Waiariki, doing a Bachelor of Computing, Communications Technology. I was born in Auckland and spent the first 10 years of my life living in Otara. Our whanau moved to Mamaku in 2000 to be closer to nana, and we now live in the city. I've attended Mamaku School, Rotorua Intermediate and Rotorua Boys' High School. I come from a family of seven children, with me being child number three and the eldest son. My mum is an early childhood education teacher and my dad lives and works in Whangarei as a chicken farm supervisor. I have four nephews, with three of them being under 10, who I absolutely adore.

Why did you choose to study at Waiariki and what do you love about the institute?
I chose to study at Waiariki because it reflected my culture, plus it's local and handy to home. What I love about the institute is the students' association, I originally came on board as a volunteer in early 2014, and in that time I met some really awesome people and learnt some useful skills. By late 2014 I was co-opted on to the students' association executive committee, then last year I was elected to the committee. I also stood in the president election in which I was successful, and took over on January 1.


What do you hope to achieve as the 2016 president of the student association? With the support of my team and our alumni, we are looking at evolving the student association into a community organisation, enabling us to provide volunteering opportunities for students, which most employers look for in CVs now days. We also have the merger taking place, which will be an opportunity for the association to broaden its coverage to Tauranga. For me, this year is about our students and our community.

What would you like to see happen in the education sector?
I would like professionals in the education sector to realise the important role education plays within our country. In regards to tertiary education, students need to be made aware of the commitment to studying, and how this plays a major role in what they are hoping to achieve in the future. I disagree with imposing limits of study on students, especially around reduced funding for over 40-year-olds. I believe in lifelong learning. Learning does not simply stop after seven years; it continues until your last moments on Earth.

Tell us three things most people don't know about you.
I'm highly organised, I'm an OCD cleaner, and I'm single.

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