Welcome back! If you’re returning for another year, I hope summer, summer work, or summer school was kind to you. And for those of you starting uni for the first time, I hope you literally have the time of your life.
Whatever point you are at in your university career, please take a moment at the start of the academic year to reflect on what it means to be here, and to feel proud. You may be far away from home, and looking for a place to live. You may be coming back to study later in life. You may be struggling to find textbooks, or sign up to tutorials. Regardless, your decision to invest in yourself is incredibly important.
I remember many years ago angsting over the seemingly simple decision to study. I worried about whether I was good enough for tertiary education. I wasn’t sure where to study, or what to study.
In the end, I made the 25km journey from Morrinsville to Waikato University. At the time, that 25kms felt like a big distance. But taking that decision ultimately put me on a pathway I’ve never looked back on.
I know many of you care as much as I do about those same issues. So here’s a quick update on what we have planned this year – and how those plans will help you during your study and beyond.
I’ve said that climate change is my generation’s nuclear free moment. I’m always inspired to see students making their voices heard on this all-important challenge.
We’ve been doing a lot of work on environmental issues since coming into office. I’m proud that we’ve ended new offshore oil and gas exploration permits, banned microbeads, phased out single use plastic bags, and started the Green Investment Fund. There’s more to do, and we’re working hard towards having a net-zero carbon emissions economy by 2050.
We know it can be a struggle to cover your living costs while studying. That’s why we’ve boosted student allowance and student loan living cost support by $50 a week. We’re also lifting the minimum wage to $17.70 from 1 April, to help you make your part-time jobs pay. Many of you will also be having your first year fees free, and I’m really happy we’re helping to make your student debt a little more manageable.
Housing is another area that really affects students. Student flats have long had a reputation for being cold and damp. That low quality housing has a huge, negative impact on students’ health and wellbeing. That isn’t good enough.
We fundamentally believe that everyone has a right to a warm, dry home.
That’s why we’ve made changes to require landlords to ensure all rentals are warm and dry. We’ve also banned unfair letting fees, and we’re updating outdated tenancy laws to make sure renters are getting a fair deal. I hope you see the benefit of these changes in the homes you rent this year.
Another important issue that students care about is mental wellbeing. This year’s government budget has made the mental health of under 25s a priority and reflects our determination to improve the mental wellbeing of all our young people by providing better access to services and support.
I hope you use these opportunities to advance the issues that you care about most.
Studying can be stressful, so remember to look after yourself and be kind to each other. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions about our plans for this year. You can email me at email@example.com, or drop me a message on Facebook or Instagram.
Till then good luck for 2019!