Labour announces $50 boost to student allowances

The Labour Party has announced a $50 a week boost to student allowances and put a 2018 start date on its policy of free post-secondary education.

If elected, Labour would roll out a year's free tertiary education in their first term. That would increase to two years if elected to a second term, three years if there was a third term.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern made the announcement with finance spokesperson Grant Robertson at Western Springs College on Tuesday morning.

"[This announcement] is an example of Labour's commitment to a progressive and inclusive future," Mr Robertson said.

For those not eligible for a student allowance, there would be a $50 increase to maximum weekly borrowing for living costs.

The current cap on student allowances for post-graduate students would be abolished by Labour. Students studying long degrees, like medicine, will be able to access loans and allowances for longer than seven years of full time study.

Mr Robertson said the policy is affordable because Labour won't implement National's tax cuts.

"Now is not the time for tax cuts that would give $400 million to the top 10 percent of income earners."

The tertiary education plan was outlined as part of Labour's fiscal plan, which would see the party "investing an additional $8 billion into health, $6 billion into education and $5 billion into families over the forecast period".

The free years of tertiary education will include students in apprenticeships and industry training. Students will be able to spread the entitlement out across their lives and across different qualifications. Students will need to pass at least half their courses in the previous years to be eligible for their second and third years.

The New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA) has welcomed the announcement, saying the $50 extra a week "will be of great assistance to... students."

But NZUSA President Jonathan Gee says more needs to be done to increase the accessibility of the student allowance, which 33 percent of students are currently eligible for.

"What we also need is greater access to the student allowance, so that tertiary-study becomes a way out of poverty, not a way into it," he said.