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Political pledges to support a review of student benefits

Aug 21st, 2014 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News


student accom

STUDENT poverty will be an election issue this year thanks to a campaign by student unions.

Increasing housing costs and the struggle to meet basic living costs under the current benefit system are the reason for the campaign.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) campaign is designed to inform and mobilise students in the lead up to the General Election on September 20.

Daniel Haines, president of NZUSA, says there are a number of policies in the tertiary education area that students and their families should be mindful of when voting.

“The current situation is unfair and students need to be able to access at least the same support which is offered to everyone else,” he says.

The NZUSA has released information raising their concerns over the imposed $40 cap on the student accommodation benefit which was set in 2001 and which doesn’t take into account the variation in living costs across different cities.

Tara-Dawn Harris, a student at Victoria University of Wellington, says removing the cap would take away a lot of stress while she’s studying, especially living in such an expensive city.

“It would mean I wouldn’t have to work 30 hours a week and I could actually study and sleep,” she says.

Ms Harris, who is originally from Wanganui, says back home she could get a whole three bedroom house for $180 a week, but in Wellington she pays the same for just one tiny, cold room.

Max Zillwood, a student in Auckland, says he would benefit hugely from more money because the cost of living in the inner city of Auckland is high.

“I just need to survive,” he says.

The call for change has so far been met with a positive response from political parties, with all but National and ACT pledging to support an immediate review.

Mr Haines says student associations will hold these parties to their promise.

“It is incredibly unlikely that a Government can be formed without any of the Greens, Māori, Mana, United future, Labour or New Zealand First so as long as these political parties honour their promise, the legislation will be reviewed,” he says.

Students wanting to get involved in the campaign can do so here.

What the parties say:

The following are statements from political parties sourced by NZUSA for its campaign:
Tracey Martin, New Zealand First: “Absolutely we would want an immediate review of that cap. It is starting to look like 17th and 18th century Europe where the academics had to have the patronage of a king or noble man to study.”
Holly Walker, Green Party: “This is a call that we support – we’d like to see all allowances available to students be reviewed and to increase the accommodation benefit to the same level as what’s available to those receiving other sorts of benefits.”
Maryan Street, Labour Party: “A review of the student accommodation benefit would be included in Labour’s full review of student support… the accommodation benefit is one of those [aspects] which make the system unfair.”
Te Ururoa Flavell, Māori Party Co-leader: “The Maori Party supports a review of the student accommodation supplement as one of many actions to address the high levels of student debt in Aotearoa.”
Hone Harawera, Mana Party Leader: “Student’s don’t need a lot to get by but they do need an allowance that covers the real costs of being a student, including rent. Rents have skyrocketed over the past ten years but students still have a $40 cap on their accommodation grants. Students should not be forced to abandon their education because they can’t afford rent. MANA supports the call to lift the accommodation cap.”
Peter Dunne, United Future Leader: “We need to ensure there is an appropriate level of fairness and equity. For those studying in our larger centres where rent is significantly higher the current arrangement is unfair. We will commit to a review of the accommodation supplement and the wider tertiary student support scheme”.

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