NZ students win against VSU

Issue 

NZ students win against VSU

By Zanny Begg

Students in New Zealand have had a victory against the government's attempts to weaken student unions through the voluntary student membership (VSM) legislation.

The legislation required student unions to hold referendums on all campuses asking students whether they wanted "voluntary" or "compulsory" membership of student unions. The ballot paper was biased against compulsory membership by informing students that they would have their union fees refunded if they voted for voluntary membership.

Despite this, students voted overwhelmingly for compulsory membership. At Massey University, the site of a major anti-fees struggle last year, 65% of students voted for compulsory membership. At Otago University, 78.6% of students voted to retain compulsory membership. Five of the seven campuses in NZ voted for compulsory membership.

The two losses were at Waikato and Auckland universities. Eleven thousand students voted at Auckland University and the campaign to retain compulsory membership lost by only 90 votes. Waikato implemented VSM in 1996, and voted to retain it.