Recent commemorations acknowledging the role of service men and women more than 100 years ago in the Frist World War have focused attention on RSAs around the country – and none more so than in Ōtaki.
The town and surrounding district contributed more than its fair share in terms of numbers signing up to serve.
The Ōtaki RSA was established in 1919 to recognise the commitments of these people, to provide a place where they could gather and receive support. Subsequent wars and peace-keeping efforts since have involved more Ōtaki people, and the original pastoral support still applies.
However, while support for veterans is still a core function, the modern-day RSA is much more than that. It’s a factor that has ensured the Ōtaki RSA continues to thrive, when others struggle or have closed.
“We recognise that we’re not just about veterans,” says president Mike Fogarty. “We’re also a community hub, as well as a place of fellowship and remembrance.
“We make an effort to ensure everyone is welcome, whether a veteran or a member of the community.
“We established an organisation in 1919 that was relevant for the times, and we’re still doing it in 2019.”
Thanks to a strong executive committee and support from the community, the Ōtaki RSA continues to grow its membership. With prudent management that has focused on spending only what’s available – rather than incurring big debts with borrowing – it is financially stable and is looking forward to improvements that will enhance the RSA’s services.
Mike is leading a full refurbishment of the clubrooms to bring it firmly into the 21st century. The RSA has applied for Lottery funds and hopes to be able to make an announcement soon.
Meantime, the outside enclosed patio area that opened late last year has proved popular. It’s part of a programme helped by the experience of RSA manager Peter Clareburt, who has considerable knowledge in the operation of hotels, taverns, bars and other hospitality venues.
“Peter’s brought a rigour to the business side of our management,” Mike says. “For example, he’s gone through the membership lists and ensured that all members are still active and paid up. Previously we paid capitation fees to the national RSA based on numbers that were not audited.”
The bar is trading profitably and the poker machines are well managed and provide a steady income. The profits go back into the club, but also fund two annual community activities – a college scholarship and a community grant.
There are many social activities at the club with local bands featuring, and there are full-sized snooker tables and a big-screen TV for the big games. Local cafe RiverStone has been appointed to run the dining room and offers evening meals on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as bar snacks on Friday and Saturday afternoons.
The RSA remains proactive in organising Anzac Day and special commemorations such as Armistice Day.
The Ōtaki and District RSA also incorporates Waikanae.