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July 25, 2011 | by  | in News |
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Making Themselves NZUSEFUL

NZUSA has acknowledged the elephant in the room—how it would operate under Voluntary Student Membership (VSM)—with a document passed at its July conference that aims to make the organisation more sustainable.

The document, entitled ‘Redefining our National Voice’ explores how well NZUSA would function under VSM, which would have huge effects on membership to students’ associations nationwide.

“We’re obviously responding to the threat of VSM,” says NZUSA co-president Max Hardy. “There was a need to take a hard look at what we do and refocus our activities a bit better.”

The report outlines proposed changes to the structure, governance and staffing of NZUSA, including a move from two co-presidents to one president, supported by two vice-presidents.

The organisation will also become directly responsible to a board, rather than a federation of students’ association presidents.

Other significant changes include the appointment by the board of an executive director of the organisation. It is hoped that this will provide a longer-term outlook to NZUSA’s development, responding to problems arising from the fixed-term contracts of most students’ association presidents.
Labour MP and former NZUSA president Grant Robinson is supportive of such a change.

“[I’ve always supported] the idea of an executive director because I think that helps with that continuity,” he says.
In the future, greater emphasis will be placed on research to shape and reinforce NZUSA’s setting of policies, which were in the past largely shaped by the union’s ideologies. This will see NZUSA work towards securing more pragmatic gains for students.

“We are turning away from being dogmatic or ideological, because students are a broad group of people and they have broad interests,” says Hardy.
The reform has received support from ACT on Campus President Peter McCaffrey, who has been vocal in his criticism of NZUSA in the past.

“The implementation of this program of reform will allow NZUSA to more accurately and fairly represent the views of all students,” says McCaffrey.
NZUSA also aims to improve communication with its members by way of a student database. However, Hardy notes that NZUSA is a small organisation that relies heavily on its member students’ associations to advertise the union’s campaigns on campus.

All of these changes at least in part respond to the prospect of operating on a hugely reduced budget under VSM.
NZUSA is currently funded by a levy of $4.90 per full-time student, which is paid by member students’ associations. Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association paid $85,000 to be represented by NZUSA this year.

The threat of VSM has already had an impact on NZUSA with the dissolution of the National Right’s Officer position, and reduced funding to Maori students’ associations and support groups such as UniQ Aotearoa.

“All our budgets have been reduced because of the threat of VSM. We need to show we are actively delivering value for money.”

For details on NZUSA’s election campaign go to facebook.com/demandabetterfuture

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