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March 1, 2015 | by  | in News |
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NZUSA hungry for students’ money

VUWSA has sought legal advice on the possibility of withholding its 2015 New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA) membership fees. NZUSA sent VUWSA a bill for $22,500, half a year’s membership fee, in late January.

The bill arrived despite VUWSA’s withdrawal announcement in September 2014. The NZUSA Constitution requires a one-year notice period for withdrawals, so VUWSA cannot “officially” withdraw until September 2015.

VUWSA is reluctant to spend any further student money on an organisation in which it has no confidence, and sought legal advice following an Executive meeting on 10 February. The executive is “still considering what action it wants to take with this”, according to President Rick Zwaan.

Zwaan told Salient that the Executive “don’t think it’s the best use of students’ money to be spending on this organisation.

“We believe that money can be better spent serving our students, on issues that matter.”

Salient suggested the money—equivalent to about four per cent of VUWSA’s total budget—could be equally well used flushed down the toilet than spent on NZUSA, to which Zwaan replied, “yeah. Wait, what?”

NZUSA President Rory McCourt said that the contract the union has with VUWSA, including the one-year withdrawal period, is “airtight and clear”, and he still expects VUWSA to pay their fees.

If VUWSA refuse payment there is a risk that NZUSA could sue to recoup the money, though Zwaan believes it would a bad look for NZUSA to do so. McCourt said the consequences of VUWSA failing to pay “would be a decision for the [NZUSA] Board” and “might include a conversation with VUWSA”.

VUWSA has also asked NZUSA to get legal advice on whether it needs to pay fees for the year up to 31 December, or whether it can pay them on a pro-rata basis as VUWSA withdrew from NZUSA before the end of 2014. McCourt said NZUSA is happy to investigate the matter, as they are “not interested in making VUWSA pay more than the Constitution says”.

Waikato Students’ Union (WSU) has withheld its NZUSA fees since mid-2013, when its President, Aaron Letcher, unilaterally announced the organisation’s withdrawal. NZUSA refused to recognise this withdrawal, and has continued to send invoices, none of which have been paid. McCourt says NZUSA still considers WSU to be a member.

Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA), which announced its withdrawal in November 2014 in the wake of VUWSA’s decision, was also billed for the first half of 2015. The organisation has paid the fee.

However, OUSA President Paul Hunt said the organisation intends to discuss whether it should pay the second half of 2015.

Hunt said that “there is some cynicism surrounding the one-year notice period”, and that it is “designed to allow lobbying” for associations to rejoin.

“They [NZUSA] are entitled to this by a clause in the contract; whether it’s a good [clause] is highly debatable.”

OUSA discussed NZUSA membership at its first 2015 executive meeting, and claims “no one is in favour of rejoining” the organisation. Hunt has ruled out rejoining unless “significant changes” occur.

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