RSA: It's not all over yet

Last updated 08:48 05/12/2012

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Members of the financially-stricken Palmerston North RSA are vowing to keep the club alive despite its city headquarters being closed.

The area's Returned and Services Association, which is based on Broadway Ave, was placed into receivership on Monday, with poor past investments blamed for putting the club into financial ruin.

Receivers from Grant Thornton NZ Ltd, met staff and club executives yesterday. Former president and treasurer Don Donaldson said the closure was a shame.

''I feel for George [Mathew, current Palmerston North RSA president] because he's a wonderful guy.

''As soon as I heard, I sent him an email commiserating with him and congratulating him on making what was probably the hardest decision of his life.''

Mr Donaldson, who is a life member of the Palmerston North RSA, said the club was an important part of the community and steps must be taken to ensure it stayed.

''Palmerston North RSA must not be allowed to die. If ever there was an area in New Zealand which needed an RSA, it was the Manawatu.''

Though also sad about the club's fate, Palmerston North member Evan Torrance said he was optimistic about its future.

''I'm sure everyone is bitterly disappointed they haven't been able to see a way to operate profitably. I'm sure that, like a phoenix, it will be reborn in some shape or form.''

New Zealand RSA chief executive Stephen Clarke said the executive in Palmerston North had put in a ''big effort to turn the ship around''. ''It was all too late, really.''

The national body had offered business advice and paid for an audit of the Palmerston North RSA in 2007, he said.

''At the end of the day we can advise but ... it's up to the governance of the [individual] RSAs to implement that advice and choose whether to take it on board or not.''

Other RSAs around the country have admitted to being in financial trouble this year, with the one in Johnsonville possibly having to shut before Christmas.

The Wainuiomata RSA asked for community support in October in the face of dwindling membership numbers, and the Featherston and Seatoun RSAs in Wellington also had stretched finances.

But Mr Clarke said it was not the start of a trend.

''There's a few one-off cases. There are ones you just don't hear about because they're just going along, day by day, and trading very well.''

Mr Clarke said the Palmerston North RSA could operate as a ''virtual'' club.

''About one-third of our 180 clubs don't have a trading RSA club, as the community may see it.

''It is more about the people than the place. You don't need a building necessarily to do that.''

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New Zealand RSA president Don McIver said the receivership was ''a sad day'' for members and the community.

''It is particularly sad news given the fact that Palmerston North is in the midst of an area with a growing number of Defence Force personnel at the nearby Ohakea Air Force Base, and at the Linton army camp,'' Mr McIver said.

''Unfortunately, the Palmerston North club has experienced some unique problems that, in the end, have proven insurmountable.''

- Manawatu Standard

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