WELLINGTON, April 6 - Weekly student allowances - which are means-tested and don't have to be paid back - were limited to undergraduate study by the previous government in 2013. 

Labour last year promised to extend them back , but the issue didn't make it into the government's hundred-day plan and no details or timelines have yet been given.

The New Zealand Union of Students' Associations this week launched a petition over the issue and is now calling for Minister of Education Chris Hipkins to set a date and include it in the May budget.

"The current government says that it's committed to issues such as addressing the mental health crisis, uplifting the teaching profession and tackling climate change," association president Jonathan Gee said.

"In order for this work to succeed, we urgently need to be supporting our people to gain skills in these areas."

The unions say students in fields such as teaching and psychology are in particular need of allowances.

A spokesman said the minister was unable to comment but that the matter was being considered for the budget, "alongside other initiatives".

Under the current regime allowances are means-tested and count the incomes of parents for students younger than 24. 

Those not eligible can take out "livings costs" instead, which must be paid back as part of a student loan.