With only a few days left before the general election, over 500 Victoria students packed the central Hub space on campus today to listen to a political debate on student issues organised by the Students’ Association. Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association President, Sonya Clark, was “stoked with the turnout” and said that it shows “students are more engaged than ever on issues that are important to them.”
“Many students are voting for the first time, and are taking the job of deciding who to vote for seriously. With the mass of online tools available from Vote Compass to Ask Away, students are seeking out all the information they can get to ensure their vote is an informed one.”
Paul Foster-Bell from National, Grant Robertson from Labour, Tracy Martin from New Zealand First, and Dr Russel Norman from the Green Party spoke at the debate, organised by VUWSA, and hosted by Back Benches star and Radio New Zealand journalist Wallace Chapman.
Chapman involved the crowd right throughout the debate, fielding a diverse range of questions from whether prisoners should have the right to vote and the rights of migrant workers, to the more traditional student issues of cuts to student loans and student allowances and the impact of voluntary student membership.
One student dressed as an elephant drew attention when Green Party co-leader Russel Norman pointed out “the elephant in the room called climate change.”
“It’s fantastic to see so many students engaged in the election, it’s really important to ensure tertiary issues are on the agenda” says Clark.
“The presence of advance voting on campus, and the election being held during the university semester, have both helped draw attention to the importance of voting, and we’re hoping the trend will increase as we near closer to Saturday.”
Students’ Associations across the country have been turning out the students vote, with 57,000 copies of a ‘Students’ Guide to Voting’ being distributed by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations.