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New Zealand Universities Sports Union

Identifier: nzusu

Scope and Contents

The records consist of correspondence files, minutes, financial records and registration files, mostly dating from the 1950s, but with some records prior to that period, including a set of NZUSA minutes from 1902, the year of the first University Tournament.


  • Creation: 1902-1977

Access and use

Access is freely available in the J.C.Beaglehole Room for research and private study. For any use beyond this, please contact the J.C.Beaglehole Room ( in the first instance.

Note from University Sport New Zealand webpage

"Sport at an intercampus level originates back to 1900 when Canterbury and Otago University participated in a tennis match. A proposal was put forward to organise the first formal inter-university sports tournament which became a reality in 1902.

A local tournament committee the forerunner to University Sport New Zealand held its first meeting on 1 April 1902, and Canterbury hosted the first Easter inter-university sports tournament in which Canterbury, Auckland, Otago and Victoria competed in Athletics, Tennis and Debating.

Over the years further sports were added to the competition. Boxing and Shooting were added in 1921, Basketball in 1927, Swimming in 1930 and Rowing in 1932.

The inter-university ?Easter Tournament? also provided a forum for social interaction and discussion, where initiatives resulting from the competition developed. For example the profits of the 1915 Easter tournament went to the Belgium Relief Fund and in 1927 the New Zealand National Union of Students (NZNUS, later to become NZUSA) was formed at an Easter Tournament.

Until 1935 sports councils and tournament committees operated independently on each campus. Total autonomy was not without its problems, and in cases of dispute that arose between campus sports bodies, there was no national body to represent the united interests of all Universities and their students.

Recognising this problem the NZ National Union of Students (NZNUS) took over the administration of University sport through a standing committee. Responsibility included control of finances for university sport and the sole authority to award University Blues awards awarded for excellence in sport and education achievement.

August 1945 saw the first Winter Tournament a second inter-university event held at Otago University where University supremacy in Hockey, Basketball, Fencing, Skiing, Table Tennis, Cross Country, and Golf were competed for.

Repeated calls for interdependence and a separate national body were made between 1949-1957, and in 1957 the New Zealand University Sports Union (NZUSU) was established. NZUSU oversaw the University blues panel, arranged overseas tours, and organised Easter Tournament and the Winter Games.

A voluntary committee ran the NZUSU until 1982, when the first full time staff appointment of a general secretary was made. Staffing levels grew and in 1995 four positions were held with an Executive Director, Administration Manager, Administration Secretary and a National Development Officer.

1997 saw a restructuring and an emphasis towards the New Zealand University Games saw staffing levels change to an Executive Director, an Event Manager, and a contracted staff member to provide accounting services.

NZUSU changed its name to University Sport New Zealand (USNZ) in 1999 with the intention of making its image more professional. In response to the Voluntary Student Membership at Auckland and Waikato Universities USNZ decided in 2000 to allow universities to join as members.

The last few years have also seen a number of changes to the way Easter Tournament is run. The name was changed to the University Games and the sports traditionally held during the Winter Tournament included into the one event in 1999. In addition work has been done to improve the image of the Games after a riot broke out during the Games in Dunedin in the early 1990s.

New policies have promoted fair play, team spirit, a review of social events at the games and a re-focus on higher-level sport. Also changes have been made to the selection of Games hosts, with campuses now tendering for the Games.

This has helped in making the Games both more profitable and well run. The University Games are the second largest sporting event regularly held in New Zealand after the Masters Games with last years event attracting more than 2000 competitors.

USNZ exists to serve the interests of sports people at a national level. Its role is to facilitate national sporting opportunities between campuses and act as a conduit for university sportspeople to compete internationally (though its membership of FISU). In addition USNZ serves a role in promoting sport and recreation to students and supporting campuses members in the development of sport at a local level through training, support of sports councils and providing networking opportunities."

Source: (copied 25 March 2009)

Biographical/Historical note

The New Zealand Universities' Sports Union was formally established in 1957 to co-ordinate the inter-university sporting activities of the New Zealand universities, including the organisation of the annual Tournaments and the arrangement of tours by overseas teams, and by New Zealand teams overseas. It covers most university sports, but not rugby football. Prior to 1957 the present functions of the Sports Union were carried out by the Tournament Committee of the New Zealand University Students' Association (NZUSA).

See also the web page for University Sport New Zealand / Nga Hakinakina Whare Wananga o Aotearoa at


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Language of Materials


J C Beaglehole Room - archives and manuscripts
Edited Full Draft
Nicola Frean
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is written inEnglish
Edition statement
XML EAD edition

Repository Details

Part of the Tapuaka Heritage & Archive Collections - JC Beaglehole Reading Room, Victoria University of Wellington Library Repository

P O Box 3438
Wellington 6140 New Zealand
+64 4 4635681