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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 6. 1966.

When Taylor lost…: At Easter Council

When Taylor lost…: At Easter Council

The Delegates sat about a rectangle of tables placed end to end, according to their university: Otago, Lincoln and Canterbury on one side; Auckland, Waikato, and Massey on the other; with Victoria at the end, facing NZUSA president Alister Taylor and his aids.

Seated in chairs ranged along the walls of Otago's spacious Room K about fifty observers—unofficial representatives, reporters, hangerson and the curious—kept their eyes on the centre, waiting for Easter Council to begin.

The delegates in the centre bustled in preparation. They scanned reports with executive speed, made little notes, whispered to each other, looked concerned. To a foreign observer totally ignorant of the New Zealand University Students Association and the pattern of its conferences, it was all rather mysterious. But it was obviously important.

Of course, it must have started days earlier, with the writing of the reports, with speculations, plans. Those delegates who had taken the Friendship from Wellington the night before had worked very hard during the flight. They pinned on their official delegate ribbons and stacked so many cyclostyled dockets on their little flight-tables that the hostesses were hard pressed to find where to place the coffee. By the end of Council, four days later, each student-delegate had been issued 8.31bs of cyclostyled summary and information.

Not enough

But as soon as president Taylor banged his gavel, opening the first session, it was clear that the reports—already nearing two pounds in bulk— just did not weigh enough. John Anderson, of Canterbury, castigated Taylor for laxness in issuing his reports, and he proclaimed his resolve to refuse to discuss anything about which he had not received "adequate" prior written preparation. Otago's Dennis Pezaro. speaking in reasoned tones, agreed.

Taylor, a proud and fiery sun. lashed back. His response was to excoriate the delegates for their reports, some of which he called "ill-based." At this arrogance, all the Constellations in this rectangular universe bristled. They took a vote, and in the first item of business of the Council, they censured their elected head.

All this while, Ross Mountain, the Moon, sat silent against the wall, watching the squabbles of the Gods, waiting lor time to take its toll and let him eclipse the Sun.


After the Plenary Session, the Council split up into Commission meetings — Educational. Cultural. National, International, Finance, Program and Affiliates. These were the working sessions. After the first day. the delegates found themselves behind schedule; they were never to catch up. Morning sessions dragged on after lunch; afternoon sessions went on into the evening. By the third day, a weary group listened from their committee chairs as the chimes of midnight tolled. By the end. the delegates even cancelled their special dinner.

It appeared that part of the Eroblem was that their words ad lathered in their mouths. Whlie only phrases, "matters arising" and "point of order" took on lives of their own. and they ran a wild mulberry chase with "moving for adoption," "lapsing for want of a seconder," "speaking to the motion," and a league of others.

Even outside of the committee rooms, "conferencese" captured the delegates' intelligence. They could not stop talking about it. Late one night, a crowd of them went to a local hotel for a nightcap, but to their surprise, found Dunedin's most hospitable resting place closed and quiet. The buffy-head blonde from Massey took the floor: "May I put forward the suggestion that we delegate one from among this body to investigate the question of the whereabouts of the propriator. and if he can be located, how he might be persuaded. . . ." At this point, a non-delegate who had been doing sport interrupted rudely, and looking up at a second story window, yelled: "Hey, you old b—. get out of bed and let us in."


For all its pretensions, the NZUSA Easter Council was a bona fide political convention. Its conclusion held a built-in climax—the election of the 1966-67 president. Inevitably, everyone who had anything to do with the Council could not resist talking tactics and possibilities—even in the most social moments. From time to time, the hum-drum Commissions caught fire after motions which clearly had political consequences, such as a motion of censure or protest.

And there was high drama. The constituents bombarded Alister Taylor at almost every turn, but he showed no signs of fear. He dared chastise those who held to power to re-elect him about their own alleged failings. By issuing an unauthorised press report on the Insurance Programme, he seemed to be saying to them all that he felt no compunction for his independent methods. Such actions, his opponent was later to claim, were tantamount to a "fait accompli."


The anti-Taylor sentiment exploded in the first session of the Finance Commission, when the treasurers censured Taylor for what one called "scandalous mismanagement" of NZUSA funds. To prove their point, they then froze the association's accounts until an accountant had made sense out of the books.

While the delegates ripped and tore at the dominant figure of Taylor, Ross Mountain, the only other presidential candidate, took copious notes. But he never spoke. In the eyes of one delegate Mountain's short hair, cleancut face and tab-collar shirt lent him the appearance of the "all-American boy." He wore, throughout the entire Council, his Auckland University scarf draped neatly over his right shoulder. It was a regal touch. He looked like a descendant of Caesar, smiling but inexorable.

Taylor and Mountain were never far from the delegates' attention, but they were not the only persons to play a part. Dennis Pezaro, affectionately referred to as "Papa" emerged as the conservative voice of the Council, reminding the delegates time and again of the constitutional rights of the constituents. John Scott from Massey sat with a logger's johnny cap always on his head, as if it were a private talisman, and whenever he opened his mouth, the words were as trenchant as a saw. As for the women representatives, the slender legs of the Bishop's daughter from Waikato spoke more eloquently than all the words she never uttered.


The principal paradox of the Council was that at the moment of election, in the evening of the final day, the odds against Taylor mysteriously diminished. Even bets were taken on both sides. In the ultimate moment the dynamic qualities of the colourful, controversial president were somehow exerting their pull.

After four days of open hostility. Auckland and Otago found they needed to deliberate before casting their votes. Their places were empty for over thirty minutes. Finally they came back. The ballots were issued and the votes returned. Two specially-delegated representatives tallied them. The count was to remain secret, but Mountain was the new president. Taylor's magnetism had not been strong enough to withstand a "crisis in confidence." His feign was done.


After the elections, there was still business to complete. It fell to Helen Sutch, International vice-president, to take the chair. Throughout the Council she had always been at Taylor's side. Unfaltering, her small voice directed the men who had Just performed the execution. Whether Alister Taylor was Knight or Saracen, he and his lady withstood defeat with dignity, and the end of the convention was not without its pathos.

After the four days were over, the Council had become a haze of itchy seats, coffee breaks, late night drinking sessions, and too few hours asleep. By then one phrase had totally seized the consciousness, like a melody that cannot be dispelled: "All those in favour say 'Aye'; to the contrary, 'Nay'; I declare the motion carried."

In reflection, the proceedings in Dunedin left this observer with a feeling of genuine appreciation. The delegates eclipsed their own pretentions by hard work and definite accomplishment. If they showed a lack of resilience in adapting to the needs of an expanding organisation, it was because they were more conscious of their own political rights than of the organisation's executive necessities.

Crisis point

As far as the success of the Council is concerned, the crisis point came in the second session of the Finance Commission. The first session had exploded in spleen and censure. The second appeared to begin in the same negative spirit, as another censure motion came up concerning the shifting of the executive into new offices. In the ensuing discussion, the delegate from Waikato accused the Commission of "pinpricking." The others seemed to agree. The motion carried was that the censure motion not be put.

From that point on, the discussions were sanguine constructive, and the tr urers reviewed the budget f non-political spirit.

The work of the [unclear: treasur] brought to light one of most commendable aspect the conference. To make t review, the treasurers had call upon not onlv t maturity, but also t specific knowledge of countancy. Similarly, th present who were trained law were frequently asked clarify points and apply legal know-how. In the even Robert's Rules of O proved their value. How infectious may be the langu it was born of parliament necessity, Undoubtedly, knowledge of these rules, well as practice in apply them, will stand the dele in good stead in the future.

Rapid growth

It became clear at the Co cil that NZUSA is undergo a period of rapid growth. expenditure in the co year is estimated to ex 6000. The cash flow of Student Travel Bureau is m jected at 100,000. Sums high insist on compe administrators.

For all their earnest the student-delegates Council showed signs of actionlsrn and clumsiness, then, directing NZUSA is their vocation, but th avocation. And these direc have not benefited f professional training programmes. This is th training programme.

Overall, as they gra with a burgeoning amount business, the performance the delegates was admire But to what exent NZUSA inherit the bright future which awaits it will depend on much its members can "th big" on questions of policy by how far they can stream line current methods of liberation and [unclear: administra]