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Dental Student Hardship Has Gone On Long Enough

2 MAY 2002

New Zealand Dental Association President, Dr David Crum, has welcomed the High Court decision of Justice Goddard in favour of dental students and the University of Otago over the under-funding of dental education.

“This decision is extremely good news for dental students who were unfairly penalised by the 1994 decision to cut dental education funding. However, the suffering has gone on long enough. The judge’s decision is clear. Dental students should be compensated by the Government for the $5.8 million in additional fees paid”, says Dr Crum.

The decision to cut dental education funding was made by former Minister of Education Hon Lockwood Smith. Justice Goddard described the decision as “so erroneous that it could only be categorised as irrational”.

“The present Government increased the dental tuition subsidy for current dental students in the year 2000 to correct the unjust decision made by Hon Lockwood Smith. Now it is time to address the issue for former students, many of whom are now young dental practitioners carrying a huge debt burden. Justice Goddard has clearly guided the Attorney General. The appropriate outcome is repayment of the under-funded fees to the former dental students and a payment to the University of Otago. This Government has inherited a mess, but the decision to put this right is with Attorney General, Margaret Wilson and the Government” said Dr Crum.

The Crown’s concerns that settling this matter with former dental students will open a floodgate of claims, and that calculation of the amount due would be difficult to perform, are not supported. Justice Goddard has stated that this claim is unique because “the error of decision making was so singular” and has also endorsed the University’s own calculation of the students’ losses, meaning there is no difficulty making refund to the former students.

The New Zealand Dental Association urges Attorney General, Margaret Wilson and the Government to act swiftly and definitively to end this stressful and damaging issue for former dental students.

Ends

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