VUWSA elections have played out much as expected, with favourite Sonya Clark scooping a clear victory in the presidential race, and VUWSA unable to repeat the high voter turnout of last year.
The provisional announcement of election results was made in The Hunter Lounge on Thursday evening. Current Academic Vice-President and now President-elect Clark gained 79 per cent of votes cast for the role, beating Thomas Maharaj by a decisive 1701 votes to 450.
Maharaj’s campaign was dogged by controversy, after several students claimed he had told them he would be able to reduce bus fares for students as his father owns Snapper. As Salient reported last week, Maharaj’s father, Noel, owns 25 per cent of the company contracted by Snapper for services and maintenance, but has no influence on fares.
This year’s VUWSA elections saw a near–30 per cent decline in voter turnout compared to 2012, with around 13 per cent of VUWSA members voting. This represents roughly ten per cent of all students, as only three-quarters of students are VUWSA members.
Despite VUWSA recently opening its elections up to all students at the AGM last month, the University refused it access to students’ email addresses to contact students about their right to vote.
VUWSA members voted for VUWSA to remain a member of the troubled New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), with 63 per cent of voters opting for VUWSA to continue as a member of NZUSA, with reforms. The remaining 37 per cent voted for VUWSA to withdraw from the national student body. Student Nick Cross requested the referendum in the weeks before elections.
It is not yet clear what the supposed reforms will entail. Current President Rory McCourt, alongside the presidents of OUSA and AUSA, issued a press release in August saying the three would propose reforms to NZUSA at the national Congress to be held on 8 November this year. There was deafening silence after the referendum result was announced, until McCourt began to applaud. McCourt will be a key contender for the NZUSA presidency next year.
Critics of NZUSA ran a campaign citing the $45,000 spends on NZUSA membership every year, the recent withdrawal of the Waikato Student Union (WSU), and the $200,000 deficits VUWSA runs as key reasons to reject NZUSA membership. Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) members also voted to retain membership, with 86 per cent voting for a vague reform promise and 14 per cent against continuing membership. OUSA’s turnout was over twice VUWSA’s, at 4936.
Funding for the VBC will continue, with 61 per cent of votes in favour out of the 2105 cast on the question. The VBC is allocated $30,000 per year out of the VUWSA student-media budget, which comes from a contract with the University. Tyrone Barugh successfully moved a motion at the VUWSA AGM in September that there be a referendum on the discontinuation of VBC funding.
The announcement of the results was noticeably more sedate than last year, with a relatively subdued crowd at The Hunter Lounge to watch the announcement. In 2012, a supporter of unsuccessful presidential candidate Jackson Freeman punched out a window, and newly elected Vice-President (Welfare) Simon Tapp capped off the night by getting arrested at the now-closed Big Kumara.
David Rektorys, who has described himself as a “bit of a douche”, was unsuccessful in both of the roles he campaigned for, gaining the least votes of all three candidates for both Clubs and Activities Officer and Campaigns Officer.