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July 20, 2014 | by  | in Opinion VUWSA |
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Sonya Says

Occasionally, someone asks the question: “Why doesn’t New Zealand have a strong competitive inter-university sport culture? Where are the mascots and fierce competitive spirit?” For this week’s Sport issue – let’s talk about about an organisation called University Sport New Zealand.

University Sport New Zealand (USNZ) was the governing body for university sport in New Zealand. All New Zealand university students’ associations (including VUWSA) were members, and paid levies (funded by students) which partially funded its operation. The first UniGames was set up in 1902, and the first NZ University Sports Union (USNZ’s precursor) was created in 1957. To most students, USNZ was the body that organised SnowGames, UniGames and the NZ Universities Blues Awards for top sportspeople.

I say ‘was’ in the above paragraph because USNZ hasn’t really been alive for the past two years – there are no staff, and NZUSA (the NZ Union of Students’ Associations) do some admin and host some of the history in a couple of boxes in their office. This is really sad. New Zealand students deserve a thriving tertiary inter-sport culture, with tournaments that cater for both social players and top sportspeople.

How did USNZ get here? Before Voluntary Student Membership came into law in 2011 (see last week’s column for how this law affected students’ associations), students’ associations felt that USNZ wasn’t performing as it should. With VSM around the corner (and a whole lot of uncertainty about money), the Board of USNZ commissioned a review on the future of tertiary sport in New Zealand, and how to make USNZ work in this “new environment” where students’ associations could no longer afford to fund the organisation.

The review recommended that USNZ completely change: from being governed by students’ associations to a board comprised of largely tertiary institutions’ Vice-Chancellors or their delegates. 2012 VUWSA President Bridie Hood felt strongly that this wasn’t the answer – that a model that retained student direction could be balanced with the need to have more institutional support. VUWSA voted against this proposal, because we believe that student voice is really really important in things that affect students – it’s the same reason that the Vice-Chancellor doesn’t choose the bands at Orientation. In the end, nothing has really happened from this review – and next month, the original members of USNZ (including VUWSA) are having a Special General Meeting.

For tertiary sport to thrive in New Zealand, it will need:

– Strong student ownership and direction.

– To be supported by expertise from the sports sector to provide continuity.

– A sustainable funding model, most likely through the universities.

I’ll be in a better place to report back after the SGM next month: VUWSA will be advocating for the retention of student ownership balanced with the need for continuity and support from the institutions. We all benefit from a stronger inter-university competitive culture in New Zealand.

Sonya Clark | President

Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association
M: 027 563 6986
DDI: (04) 463 6986


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