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Refund debate: Still going

Laura McQuillan



Salient news editor sick of refund debate
A-Team Presidential candidate Lukas Schroeter last week requested that Salient run an article on the legitimacy of the group’s proposed refund; however, VUWSA Treasurer Alexander Neilson still disputes the validity of the A-Team’s argument.
Lawyer and former VUWSA Treasurer Graeme Edgeler told Salient VUWSA “won’t be able to write every student a cheque – this would breach the Incorporated Societies Act (societies have to be non-profit, and can’t just divide their funds up between members like a company can).”
“It will likely have to be an actual refund; that is, if the student paid their VUWSA levy through a student loan, the money will go back to the government (of course, the student’s student loan will be lower).”
However, the Ministry of Social Development told Salient “StudyLink would not be entering into any arrangement to have the refund paid to StudyLink. If students choose to use the refund towards paying their student loan that is their choice.”
Schroeter told Salient the group have inspected the law and believe a refund to VUWSA members would not be ‘pecuniary gain’ – prohibited by the Incorporated Societies Act.
Schroeter says the group have had opinions from the Ministry of Economic Development and the Community Law Centre which support the A-Team’s position.
Neilson says VUWSA would not be able to give $25 to students who paid their VUWSA levy through their student loans, as this would not be a refund, and could be classed as pecuniary gain.
A-Team Council Rep candidate Jordan Williams said it may be necessary to change the word ‘refund’ to something else to be able to give each student $25.
Neilson says: “It would be a very complex legal argument to get it done. Before any refund could be considered a large amount of legal work would be required from the Association’s lawyers and would likely result in the refund being declared impossible.”
The A-Team has proposed using the building fund levy – around $250,000 per annum – and cutting funding to clubs and some exec portfolios to pay for the refund. “A motion of a general meeting is required to utilize any money from the major project fund, and such money is likely to be only available in a major project, and not to fund a refund as per the VUWSA Trust Deed.”
Neilson says it would “probably take two years, if they’re lucky”.