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Former VUWSA President Rory McCourt has been elected President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), after three rounds of voting at the organisation’s SGM in Wellington. McCourt, who ran unsuccessfully for the position in 2013, was elected despite failing to gain the support of VUWSA, which last year announced its intention to withdraw from NZUSA.
His opponent was Miranda Orpin, student president at Palmerston North’s UCOL.
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan said McCourt’s background would have no bearing on the organisation’s relationship with NZUSA this year. “It’s not about the personalities involved, it’s about the results and how [NZUSA] functions and communicates.
“[McCourt] being a former president might create some confusion about our working relationship. We’ve already said we have no confidence in the organisation. Our position hasn’t changed.”
VUWSA abstained from the first two rounds of voting, while its Otago counterpart OUSA voted No Confidence. This effectively prevented either candidate gaining the necessary two-thirds majority, and after some exchanges Zwaan described as “tense” the VUWSA delegates left the meeting for the third round to allow McCourt to be elected.
McCourt said that while he “doesn’t want to be seen as a representative of VUWSA”, he was “a little surprised” not to have received the body’s backing.
“It’s always disappointing not to have your home association support you.”
McCourt said that he originally had no plans to run for the position, but changed his mind after NZUSA’s failure to elect a president at the end of last year.
His plans for NZUSA include a stronger focus on original research, as well as “one central campaign” to unite its members. While unwilling to disclose details, he indicated the campaign would focus on raising student allowances and student loan living cost caps.
McCourt’s last tilt at the position was particularly dramatic. At the 2013 SGM, then-OUSA President Francisco Hernandez was the favourite to win, before McCourt’s last-minute candidacy and a mutiny from Hernandez’s own delegates split the vote and handed the election to Auckland student president Dan Haines. After expressing frustration with NZUSA’s continued failure to reform under Haines, both VUWSA and OUSA last year signalled their intention to withdraw.
The withdrawal process takes a year, because NZUSA is easily startled and fast, decisive action scares the bejeesus out of it.
Hernandez said news of McCourt’s election was “absolutely great”, describing McCourt as “a very savvy political operator”. He denied there was any bad blood between the pair after the 2013 fiasco. “I’m actually very happy I lost in hindsight – why would I want to be captain of the Titanic?”