Editorial: RSA closure is the city's shame

GREER MCDONALD
Last updated 12:00 05/12/2012

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OPINION: It was devastating to hear the Palmerston North RSA has been forced to close its doors after a series of "bad decisions" left it in financial turmoil.

But what was even more worrying was how this situation could arise with one of New Zealand's largest military camps, Linton, on the city's back doorstep.

RSAs across the country are battling dwindling memberships as the organisation struggles to convince a younger, peacetime generation just what the club is all about. The New Zealand Returned and Services' Association (NZRSA) has more than 110,000 members, 70,000 of whom do not have a service background. However, in the past year its membership declined by 4000, the first fall in three years.

Just last week it was reported that the last truly independent RSA in Wellington will have to close before Christmas if it cannot pull itself out of a deep financial hole.

It is a worrying trend; one that NZRSA is taking seriously by attempting to "rebrand" itself by connecting with younger potential members through social media, a revamped website and youth-focused events.

With thousands living in Manawatu employed or associated with the Defence Force, there is great potential for both military and civilian communities to display those characteristics again to ensure the RSA is supported - in whatever incarnation comes next.

Although the option is there to become a part of the third of all RSAs running virtually - meaning with no physical "club" - this is not desirable for a city proud of its military hub.

Surely it would send a signal against its own values, of creating a place where people can socialise and be together with comrades, friends and their families.

In this digital age, there are some things that can't be done to the same level in a "virtual" sphere.

Sharing a meal while swapping stories over a cold beer with those who have walked the path before you is definitely one of those things.

We, thankfully, are living in more peaceful times than when the RSA was conceived in 1916, but it shouldn't mean the death of this important institution.

ONE MORE THING:

The women's mags were right. Or at least the roulette wheel of royal baby predictions has come true after weeks, nay, more than a year of speculation. News of William and Kate's baby, whether you're a fan of the royal family or not, is good news. Among the sea of frequent negative stories, this can be seen as a new beginning for the royal family and potentially a test of the change to the rules of royal succession, ending male precedence, regardless of age.

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- The Manawatu Standard

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