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Local RSA in good health despite report says president



3 MF-Hakrsa1-946A war veterans long-standing support organisation has recently been advised that to ensure survival they have to become more attractive to younger members.

An internal report by The Royal New Zealnd Returned and Services Association (RSA), released in early January this year, highlighted the need for the 180 nationwide clubs to ‘become more relevant’ to the young, to avoid the financial collapse or struggling patronage a number of clubs have experienced in recent years. 

Despite the report, Hakaru and Districts Memorial RSA (Inc) president Bill Warren confirms that the local club is in good health, ‘existing today for the same reasons we were formed’. 

“For many years we have been operating a successful club,” he says. “We are here for the camaraderie and welfare of our members and we do this in many different ways. However while the club is financially healthy we can always use more funds due to the increasing annual costs. Our membership needs new younger members to keep the RSA going and we encourage those leaving the Services to join up and take an active part. We also invite members of the public that wish to support the RSA to join; you don’t have to be an ex-service person to become a member.”

Established nationally in 1916 to support soldiers after the horrors of WWI, a local branch, Otamatea RSA, was formed in 1918. The clubhouse in Hakaru was established in April 1953, the land and building financed partly by families who lost a loved one in WWI and WWII, and wanted the club held as a memorial in their honour. 

In 1954 the association split into sub-branches Eastern-Hakaru, Mangawhai and Kaiwaka, Central-Maungaturoto, Taipuha and Mareretu, and Western-Matakohe and Paparoa, with the Women’s Section founded in 1956. In December 2000 the eastern branch broke away from Otamatea and became a separate identity, the association known today as Hakaru and Districts Memorial RSA (Inc). 

RSA’s primary purpose is to instil in the individual a sense of responsibility and well-being of fellow citizens and local community, to perpetuate the comradeship born of service and to promote the general well-being of servicemen and women, both current and former as well as their respective dependants. Financial support is also on hand if required for assistance with medical procedures or aides such as providing mobility scooters and walking frames, and travel to hospital visits and medical procedures.
However the club also offers a lively social scene, and since the  first inaugural dance to commemorate the opening in 1953, Hakaru RSA has had a long history of sports functions, social gatherings including balls, and organised events such as weddings, funerals and christenings. Thursday and Friday evenings the club is open to the community for dinner, snooker and occasional live music. 

“We have our annual events like St Patricks Day and our main days, ANZAC Day and Armistice Day and also regular social events such as karaoke, open mic and live entertainment,” Warren says. “So here we are, alive and well and doing our utmost to continue with our purpose.”
New Challenges
Challenges the RSA are currently facing, are mainly in relation to complying to a new range of government and council laws and regulations. The latest to affect the club Bill Warren says, is the introduction of a food plan which is ‘all well and good for a hotel, restaurant, cafe, but impracticable for a club like ours’. 

“The problem is the difficulty in changing the way we operate and the keeping of the required records,” he says. “We’re only open three days a week for up to four hours and staffed with volunteers. There is no one person in charge of the kitchen, our members run it on a monthly roster type system which means it is extremely difficult to ensure that all these new rules are carried out. It will make our people into offenders as these older folk are going to find it hard to change… to now remember to record fridge and freezer temperatures and take the temperature of cooked chickens to ensure they are cooked, when for the past 50 years they have done it by instinct?” 

Historical Hakaru RSA: Successfully still standing for ceremony and remembrance as well as support and lively social events. 

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