Uni more than 'beer and skittles'

NZ First launches its new student-focused arm at Massey University, Lucy Townend writes.

Despite a cricket-chirping cellphone ringtone causing distraction, paper blowing across the podium and a crushed New Zealand First cake, Winston Peters' visit to Massey University went well.

The NZ First leader was at the Palmerston North campus yesterday to talk to tertiary students about foreign affairs, international aid, bipartisan support and students' involvement in politics.

He spent a day in the city schmoozing with university goers, appearing on Control FM and answering questions in the students' lounge.

Mr Peters took queries on building relationships between our trans-Tasman neighbours and the Pacific, how to tackle youth unemployment and if there was a place in New Zealand for a sharia law system - where secular laws are dealt with by moral codes.

He told students there's more to university than "beer and skittles" and encouraged them to take notice of Parliament's movers and shakers.

On the back of Mr Peters' speech, the city's NZ First electorate committee vice-chairman Darroch Ball launched the new NZ First on Campus group with the cutting of a cake, albeit with smudged icing.

A point of difference in NZ First's student-focused arm was that it was the only registered political club on campus, with other groups, "just showing up on the day", Mr Ball said.

Students' engagement with politics is plagued by apathy and creating a presence on campus was a way of combating that, Mr Ball said.

"A lot of students don't appreciate how the choices they make today affect them in the future and how they really need to look at the government's policies, who they vote for and what policies they have, and the future in five or 10 years.

"At the moment students only look maybe 12 months max, if not only to next weekend, and that's the thing we want to change, because then we will be well on the way to getting them to appreciate good decisions and politics."

The next step from here is garnering interest in a youthful audience and getting events, like political debates, on campus, Mr Ball said.

Manawatu Standard