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PM defends new university pastoral care code as not just 'knee-jerk reaction' to student's death

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is declining changes to student pastoral care are a "knee-jerk reaction" to the University of Canterbury student found dead after weeks in his student accommodation, instead saying the changes are about "getting everyone to lift their game".

It comes after the Government announced better protection for students living in residence halls under its university pastoral care code, with the ability to fine institutions $100,000 for any breaches of the code of conduct resulting in serious harm or death of a student.

"I wouldn't describe it as knee jerk reaction at all," Ms Ardern told TVNZ1's Breakfast today. "In fact, since 2004, there's been an exception for halls of residence so some of our tenancy laws don't apply to them because they created a voluntary code."

Ms Ardern said having the protocols in place would mean people know what to do and have an expectation that some follow-up would happen if they can't get a hold of their young person.

However, when asked about the case specific to 19-year-old Mason Pendrous, who went unnoticed for weeks after he died, she said she wouldn't comment ahead of the investigation into what happened.

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A man’s body went undiscovered for weeks at Sonoda Hall. Source: 1 NEWS

"I certainly have had a briefing on this and my view is that this is a protocol that will make a difference, but I don't want to get too far ahead of any coroner's decision as they're continuing to work on that particular case.

"Really, it's about getting everyone to lift their game because actually there is a bit of an expectation, particularly from parents and caregivers, that one year they might have their young person at home, the next they might be some great distance from them."

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The Prime Minister spoke about the Government’s announcement of a $100,000 fine for breaches of the code which result in serious harm or death of students. Source: Breakfast