Tertiary students would be able to pay off their education debt by remaining in the country and working after they graduate, under a new policy announced at the New Zealand First conference in Dunedin this afternoon.
The party's Up Front Investment Tertiary Policy, would replace student loans with a repayable skill debt.
NZ First's education spokesperson Tracey Martin said for every year a student stayed in New Zealand and worked after finishing their studies, one year would be deducted from their debt.
People working in some fields - such as doctors, teachers, or police - could work off their skills debt at a faster rate.
For students who leave New Zetaland and did not return, their skills debt would be turned into a financial debt.
Mrs Martin said the time was right to remove the burden of student loans on young New Zealanders, and that under the policy, students would be repaying the country with their talents.
She said there would also be more targetted workforce planning, so students were graduating with the skills that New Zealand needed, in the numbers required.
"It's using the finnish model, to some extent. Finland projects that they might need 208 primary school teachers in four years time, four years to complete the training, so there's only 208 places."
Mrs Martin said if the policy was introduced it would be the biggest shift in post-secondary education in 25 years and it could be delivered for less than two percent of GDP.
Peters calls for foreign student industry inquiry
New Zealand First also called for an independent investigation into New Zealand's foreign student industry at the conference.
Leader Winston Peters said a full-scale independent inquiry was needed to find out what had been going on.
In Auckland today, around 40 protesters marched to the electorate office of list MP Parmjeet Parmar calling on her to represent the Indian community and take a stand on student deportation.
Mr Peters said it had been going on far too long.
"What we should have is a full-scale independent inquiry to find out what's been going on. It's been going on since 2012, when we first raised the Chinese fraud on export education."
Mr Peters said it was time Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce was sacked.
"Well he should have been fired a long time ago, I mean he's presiding over massive fraud where in a case of some of those applications coming out of India - eight out of ten are fraudulent, today he's blaming the students."
Mr Peters said the Tertiary Education Minister would not put the blame where it belonged, with the agents supplying New Zealand education institutions.
NZ First debates policy remits
The medical benefits of marijuana and a ban on battery hen farming are among the policy ideas being debated by New Zealand First delegates at their annual annual conference in Dunedin.
The party has passed one remit calling for a government inquiry into the medical benefits of low, or no, THC-medicinal marijuana.
Another calls on the party to adopt a policy of the first $20,000 of personal income being tax free.
Remits that are carried are then considered by the party's policy committee.
Mr Peters will make his keynote address to the conference on Sunday afternoon.