Mount RSA numbers keep growing

By Genevieve Helliwell

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New members are joining the Mount Maunganui Returned and Services' Association at "a significant" rate.

There has been a surge in numbers from people aged in their 30s and 40s, a club official says.

Figures show on average 39 new members signed up to the club for reasons of camaraderie, social activities and support.

President Paul Franks said the Mount Maunganui RSA was the largest in the country with about 4700 members.

"Thirty-nine is a significant number and it's something we are very pleased about," Mr Franks said. "We don't get as many young people join as we would like but, recently, there has been a real influx of people in their 30s and 40s."

"A lot of them like dancing and we have dancing bands in three times a week so it's a very social thing and that's very important."

You don't have to be a returned serviceman or woman to be a member of an RSA - the only criteria is you have to be older than 18 years of age.

"The main focus of the RSA is the welfare and support of our members and that distinguishes the RSA from other types of clubs," Mr Franks said. "It set out for the returned servicemen and women, but now it's open to all people and we embrace that."

Long-serving member Marie Gray, who first joined the Auckland RSA during the 1960s, became an associate member at the Mount club after shifting with her husband to the Western Bay in 1996.

The keen bowls player said Anzac Day commemorations were always a special event at the club. "A lot of families go and it's lovely to see that. They do a wonderful job and they're very good with the people."

Nationally, an estimated 10,000-12,000 World War II veterans are alive and many planned to attend Anzac Day dawn services today.

RSA national chief executive Stephen Clarke said Poppy Day donations provided support for veterans and their families.

For example, reading glasses, dentures, wheelchairs and medical operations, which veterans might not receive state entitlements for, could be funded by appeal proceeds.

Government figures show about 9000 New Zealanders receive the Veteran's Pension at the end of February. About 600 were from the Western Bay.

In the year to June, Veteran's Pension payouts amounted to $176.5 million, down from $178 million the previous year.

Dr Clarke said $1.8 million was raised in last year's Poppy Appeal to support ageing Kiwi servicemen and women.

Support service costs for the ex-veteran community were estimated at $2 million annually, he said. "It's anything that makes their lives easier."

This year, the RSA teamed up with gambling giant Sky City in a controversial new sponsorship deal. "It's another corporate organisation supporting one of the oldest appeals in the country."

Abuse of volunteers and war veterans in Queenstown last year marred Anzac Day celebrations. Pedestrians lashed out after it was revealed manufacturing of the red flowers had shifted to China.

Dr Clarke said the behaviour "really misses" the point of the appeal, which provided much-needed help for many New Zealand war veterans.

Tauranga RSA general manager Graham Howard said memberships were "slightly up" with at about 2500. with

Veterans' pensions

  • Tauranga district: 466

  • Western Bay district: 159

  • Western Bay Total: 625

  • All New Zealand: 9084

- Bay of Plenty Times

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