OUSA has been sent an invoice for $21,275 by the New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA) for the second half of its membership fee.
Late last year, the executive withdrew its membership of the association. The NZUSA constitution, however, requires a one-year withdrawal period in which members must still pay their $45,000 fee. OUSA is only required to pay $42,775 as it withdrew in November 2014 so it only has to pay membership until November of this year.
In an executive meeting in March, the OUSA executives decided they would not pay the second instalment of the fee, claiming there are “better uses of the money … [paying the fee] blocks projects which are more beneficial to Otago students”.
OUSA President Paul Hunt said the decision was made “so that the conversation about how to better represent students nationally would happen faster. NZUSA has been in this situation of uncertainty for years.”
NZUSA President Rory McCourt said the association is “absolutely” prepared to take legal action if the fee is not paid. “We’ve said to our lawyer that we are prepared to engage them further if [OUSA] continue flout their contractual obligation.”
McCourt said OUSA’s actions have “lacked strategy and self awareness” and its decisions have “undermined OUSA’s reputation in the eyes of other students’ associations that [it] seeks to convince of its ideas about how to structure student voice nationally”.
“[OUSA] seems to be just playing games and I think all of the other associations are a bit over it,” said McCourt.
Hunt said he was expecting the invoice but was unsure if legal action would be taken: “I think that’s yet to be seen.”
Hunt said he met with McCourt recently to discuss “potential reforms to NZUSA” and different structures of representation. “We talked about different models, and he talked to us about what level of support each model would give.”
Hunt said OUSA favours a “federation” model where different association presidents would meet to make decisions. Although this is just a “hypothetical” structure, NZUSA would no longer exist.