30+ Auckland University Students Occupy Staff Rooms Demanding Fees Freeze

(UPDATED) Just chatting on the phone with a student who is currently barricaded inside the Clock Tower of Auckland University, occupying the staff rooms in solidarity with anti-austerity protesters worldwide.

Their message to the world is that New Zealand has the 7th highest university fees in the developed world, with fee increases averaging 4% per year while the funding for most courses has been raised only 0-0.5%.

With 15% of students living in poverty, Auckland University students have decided to fight back.

It is a little known fact that Auckland University students were the first occupiers in New Zealand; occupying the clock tower 2 days prior to the inception of Occupy Wall Street in New York on September 17th, 2001.

For fast updates and pictures direct from the source, follow @FightTheFeesNZ on Twitter.

Today’s action is undertaken on October 15th (NZDT) which is the one year anniversary of the establishment of major occupations throughout New Zealand.  It is the second “Fight The Fees” action in a week; the first being a takeover of Princes Street on Wednesday October 10th, 2012.

After arriving at a “public meeting” to discuss the fee increases this afternoon, the students discovered all the doors were LOCKED to deny them the ability to participate in the meeting.

Subsequently, they entered and barricaded themselves into the Clock Tower staff rooms in protest.

There are currently reports that two female students have been assaulted by four campus security guards, and that the students chanted their way out of the Clock Tower and all the way to the doorstep of the Vice Chancellors Office, which was lined with police.

Solidarity to our brave students; we will continue to post updates as they come. Kia ora!!

Fight The Fees 1: ONZ Cover Student #O10 Action

Continuing their year of protest demonstrations, Auckland University students have followed up their extremely high-profile “Blockade The Budget” actions with their new campaign to “Fight The Fees”.

Student-organised protest actions being amongst the most eventful and historic that we have covered in the last year, on October 10th, we happily attended to try to help fill the information vaccuum created by mainstream media and to provide an independent eye-witness account, from the ground.

Everything we saw from the students really impressed us. As usual, they had made thorough and thoughtful preparations for the participants.

Everything we saw from the university “security”, however, shocked us. We’ll let the following pictures and video tell the story.

Albert Park Band Rotunda, iconic home of the Occupy Albert Park General Assembly

Walking through Albert Park we experienced a flush of nostalgia for Occupy Albert Park; sited within metres of the Auckland University campus, and once home to a cross-section of Auckland society, encamped together communally in true Occupy style.

Banners on the Albert Park side of Princes Street, Auckland Central, New Zealand

“Shit Policie$ = Shit Edacation (sic) – National 4 a Brighta Future” mocked this large blue banner.

“Fight The Fees” – the headlining banner for the action, hung from a tree on Princes St

Strung between an ancient tree and a makeshift billboard covered in activists’ signs, this bright red banner couldn’t be missed. Photos of it have been widely circulated on the net.

“DEATH TO DEBT” screamed the banner above the sound stage.

Students had organised for the action to begin with a short set from a local band, who were well received by the crowd.

Students mixing and mingling at beginning of action

The students set up a bread and hot soup table, and fed anyone who was hungry.

It wasn’t long before students took over Princes St itself & out came the chalk!

Awesome #Chalkupy from the students in solidarity with anti-austerity protesters around the globe.

“Fight The Fees Street Party! 2PM Today!”

Soon much of the street was covered in solidarity messages.

It took a minute for cars to work out what was going on.

It appears “Unisec” campus security duties didn’t extend to traffic control!

After the #Chalkupy the students sat down to hear the speakers.

Amongst other notable speakers was Professor Jane Kelsey who wrote this recent opinion piece in the NZ Herald lambasting Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key’s perpetual sucking up to Hollywood moguls over the Kim Dotcom affair & the insipid TPPA.

As staunch as they are, the students still listen attentively to all that is said.

So peaceful. So serene.

The students proved that even despite the minimal police presence (in contrast to the 100s of riot cops that snatched & illegally detained over 40 students at the first Blockade The Budget protest) that they could self-police, keeping the protest peaceful throughout.

The police seemed understandably reluctant to get too close.

It became clear, later on, that private “security” companies and likely the University hierarchy itself, were clearly running the show.

A mountain of sand appears from seemingly nowhere…

Students begin to sand sculpt… several others watch on, fascinated, not knowing what the end result will be.

The suspense, the suspense…

The first sculpture is completed. Although it’s hard to tell from this picture, the students were building traditional sand castles… but with a twist…

Solidarity red squares!

Each castle had a flag flying from the top of it – and each flag was a red square! Showing solidarity to the student movements protesting worldwide, in defense of their education!

Bubble machines are so awesome

Someone had a bubble machine which added a unique dimension to the atmosphere.

It wasn’t until long after the action that we discovered the true significance of this picture.

Literally every single security guard there (at least 10) were constantly snapping photographs of the student protesters AND the citizen journalists. Much later, a media member saw these pics and pointed out that the security WEREN’T just photographing us – they were in fact LIVESTREAMING the protest! The question is – who was watching?

The security guards didn’t seem the slightest bit interested in traffic control or patrolling the action.

They huddled in little groups all over the place, constantly checking their footage and deciding who and/or what they needed to take more of. Upon seeing this picture; a media member exclaimed… “THOSE AREN’T SECURITY GUARDS!!” Which begs the question; then who are they? And why are they wearing “Unisec” security guard uniforms?

Who are you, “Unisec”?

Which leads us to one of the videos we took of the event. It is of Professor Jane Kelsey speaking to the crowd of students. At 3:30 into it, we went for a little stroll. And who did we find, but an as-yet unidentified guy in a white shirt, instructing the “Unisec” people. Until they spotted us filming them. When all of a sudden they lost their appetite for conversation.

Intriguing huh? We’ll be interested to see whether one of the students recognises Mr. White Shirt. Hopefully he is a University administrator. If not, there is something really dodgy going on. Has the incessant surveillance of Occupiers & other activists, spread to surveilling the student movement? The legal implications are colossal.


All in all, despite the uniformed stalkers and wannabe spies, the action was really fun. Covering the student protests is both edifying and entertaining. We are constantly impressed by the depth of thought that goes into each one. Thank you for inspiring us, students. Looking forward to seeing you again next event. Kia ora koutou, nga mihi nui.

OCCUPY NEW ZEALAND MEDIA TEAM.