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Cost of living hurts RSA

JESS ETHERIDGE
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014

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Navy veteran and Takapuna RSA president Michael Murphy is facing the toughest decision in the association's history.

He and fellow members will this Sunday decide whether to put the 78-year-old club into liquidation.

The Royal New Zealand RSA head office in Wellington began court proceedings right on Christmas over a $48,000 debt.

"That's hardly a fortune when you look at our assets, " Mr Murphy says.

The club owns its premises and adjacent bowling green, and Mr Murphy says the land, opposite Smales Farm, is worth more than $2 million.

"We are asset-rich, and cash-poor, like so many of our members, " says the 77-year-old, who served in the navy for 22 years.

Mr Murphy was among sailors aboard a New Zealand Navy ship who watched when Britain exploded a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific in 1957.

Today he's angry and claims the Wellington head office broke a gentleman's agreement to delay action until after Anzac Day.

"Suddenly they hit us with this. It's a bolt from the blue."

And he says members dispute the amount of debt and have offered to pay part of it off.

The debt, which has built up over several years, is over an annual "capitation fee" which RSAs pay to the main body.

But RNZRSA chief executive David Moger says the agreement was not broken as the liquidation hearing in the Auckland High Court was cancelled long ago.

If Takapuna sold its premises there would be cash but nowhere to go, he says.

Takapuna has offered to pay part of the debt back but "they just don't have the level of income coming in" to do so, Mr Moger says.

Takapuna RSA's building needs updating "which unfortunately requires cash".

The main body does not have the funds to bankroll it.

Mr Moger says losing the RSA the same year as the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I would be "gut-wrenching to be quite frank".

"Nobody likes to see an RSA having to close its doors but there are trading realities."

The RSA has struggled to increase membership and Mr Murphy blames ageing and the cost of living in Takapuna.

Mr Moger says management wanted to give Takapuna some time to try and pay the debt back but believes the club has reached a point of no return.

If members vote in favour of liquidation, it will be confirmed at a second meeting in three weeks' time and a liquidator appointed.

Big competition from other food and entertainment businesses is impacting on RSAs everywhere

Wainuiomata and Johnsonville RSAs were the latest to shut the doors just last year but some in smaller townships are "thriving"

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Takapuna has a "proud tradition" as one of Auckland's older RSAs, and was incorporated on December 4, 1936.

But if the doors shut for good members will be helped to find other RSA "homes", Mr Moger says.

Takapuna's members are "deeply passionate" and have tried desperately to turn things around.

"It's a very hard decision. Nobody wants to make it."

Birkenhead RSA is doing "very well" after a major refurbishment and re-brand saw membership numbers boosted, he says.

Browns Bay is "holding its own" and is stable.

Devonport "seems to be in a very good heart" and has an AGM coming up on March 17, Mr Moger says.

- North Shore Times

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