Horowhenua Chronicle June 17 2015 p3
Horowhenua Chronicle June 12 2015


Levin RSA seeks way out of debt

By Karoline Tuckey
RSA properties are being put on the market to help stem rising levels of debt, after a vote by Levin RSA members. Secretary manager Bronwyn Coombes said the decision was passed earlier this month, and the club’s main rooms in Bristol St, and the Levin RSA Bowling Club facilities in Salisbury St, were being prepared for market.
      However other alternatives were still being explored. Possible options included closure, reshaping the club to a smaller model or amalgamation with another club. The ideal solution would be a last gasp of support and patronage, which could lift the club out of their immediate issues and save the sales from going ahead, Coombes said.
      Our biggest problem is income... what’s going out is running short by about $8000 to $10,000 a month, and no organisation can sustain that. We are having to resort to using our overdraft to pay our monthly accounts, which is not a good position to be in. At this stage the bank has not insisted that we sell, but have suggested that we do if we require additional funding to assist with cashflow; we do”.
      All debt, including mortgages and overdrafts totalled $230,000 and the club was current with payments to creditors, Coombes said.
      The club has 1600 members, of which only 1200 were up-to-date on club fees. We need people paying their membership, coming in and spending money across the bar, playing the pokies. We only have two revenue streams, the bar and the pokies.
      Coombes said the club model was facing widespread difficulties throughout the country, and the Levin RSA predicament was not unusual. Tougher drink driving limits had also had an effect on sales. The membership seemed to be leaning toward adopting a new model promoted by the national RSA, she said. ”It’s an exciting new business model for a new vibrant modern club, on a much smaller scale. “Maybe on Oxford St, where there’s no barriers - where everyone’s welcome, and you don’t have this business of signing in a book; where our doors are wide open, and there’s a sign above the door that says welcome.”
      RSA national chief executive David Moger said he believed the pattern of rising club closures throughout the country had been reversed by new thinking. “We are now seeing RSAs opening up. Four in the past 12 months. ”The traditional club sector has been on a very downward trend for some years now ... and is no longer offering a viable business model, but the RSA has a bright future provided it can reconfigure away from the traditional club model, and into a modern style hospitality offering, as a community hub. The core activities of ’remembrance and support’ would continue, supported by the new focus, he said.
     Coombes acknowledged there was some sensitivity around the sale of the RSA bowling club facilities. The bowling club was a separate entity, but all members were also members of the RSA. she said.

“In 1948 the land was gifted to the RSA to build a bowling club for servicemen returning from WWII.  It had been extremely popular and well supported, however the RSA was currently paying about $6500 a year in rates and insurance for the facilities. “The ideal outcome from all of this would be for patronage to increase, and to not have to sell.
       RSA members were being kept fully informed of developments, and any major decisions would be made by the vote of financial members, Coombes said. The club was now operating four days a week on reduced hours.
       In 2013 receivers announced the Palmerston North RSA had debts of more than $2 million. On May 31 Paraparaumu RSA members vote on whether to amalgamate with the Kapiti Club, due to the club’s first significant financial yearly loss.

RED  TEXT not true
GREEN TEXT not true.  The Bowlers and other free labourers built and paid for the Club house.    
BLUE Text not true.  When bowling members pay an extra fee to the RSA Club as well as a fee to join the Bowling Club.  One cannot join just the bowling Club.  The bowling club also pays an extra $1000 which brings this total up to over the $6500.  This practice has stayed like this for may years.  It says a lot about the current management if issues like this are just now realised.  The Bowling Club is financially sound and will pay any outstanding bills owing or shortfall.  This is the first time this has been mentioned to the bowlers. Is this an excuse to sell. 



By Tania Wood   tanyawood@chronlcle.co.nz
Rising debt has placed the Levin RSA in a position where management has been forced to sell up. The RSA Bristol Street building and Bowling Club in Salisbury Street are being sold to pay off debts. At a meeting held on Sunday club members were asked to accept the proposition to put both properties on the market immediately to pay off more than $200,000 of debt incurred in early 2000, following extensive building alterations to the premises. The Levm RSA Community Club was established in 1919. National Office RNZRSA chief executive David Moger believes Levin RSA had made the right decision to move forward however, according to one club member, who called the Horowhenua Chronicle and wished to remain anonymous, the decision has left a lot of people shocked and frustrated. One of those is Garry Clark, whose great grandmother Maud Lett, formerly Maud Clark, gifted the land in Salisbury Street including the Avenue and Bowling club and greens area, formerly the Clark family tennis court, to the RSA in 1948 for the purpose of playing and promoting lawn bowls. Mr Clark said the bowling club initially catered for returning servicemen to provide good exercise and fellowship.
       The Clark Memorial Gates and Avenue of Remembrance were officially opened in 1950 by then Governor General Lord Freyburg. ”Maud was instrumental in starting bowls in Levin for women and men. The family is aggrieved that Levin RSA, with little feeling of history and current users of this successful, profitable bowling club, voted to sell it off to pay the RSA club debt.
       If they need to sell, why not just the main clubrooms? That building alone would bring in enough by itself to purchase a suitable building to meet modern day needs. Why involve the historic bowling green?
     Levin RSA Bowling Club president John Gray said they were caught on the backfoot at Sunday’s meeting.  The first we knew something was happening was a notice in the paper inviting all members to a special general meeting on March 29. They then wanted us to come with ideas for this next meeting to sort the financial problem,” Mr Clark said. Mr Gray said the bowling club had not been approached at any time by RSA management to find a solution to the debt crisis. ”They said nothing when bowling club members raised $80,000 in 2012 to upgrade the greens. They could have told us not to spend money, as it may not be required. It really is very annoying. Selling the bowling club is not the answer.” He said about 45 of its 60 bowling club members were at the Sunday meeting but they were out-voted by the show of hands from the greater number of RSA club members. ‘Irate is the simple word to describe how our members are feeling’.
       The two properties are being sold through Harcourts. A spokesperson for the real estate agent confirmed the process was underway, and that the ”For Sale“ signs were due to go up next week. He confirmed that the Avenue of Remembrance was not being sold and that the entrance for the bowling club would be off Clark Street Levin RSA president Les MacDonald declined to comment on the current situation saying it would be wrong to speak at this time and not appropriate as ”things are still in a delicate stage of negotiation”.  National Office RNZRSA chief executive David Moger said Levin RSA had made the right decision to move forward. Our organisation is about people and selling an asset, especially one that has been gifted and where there are personal connections and a relationship with that asset, is never taken lightly. It was important to understand that those type of assets were for the benefit of the RSA organisation, he said. ‘I completely understand how some individuals wifi feel strongly, at the moment all they can see is the bowling club being sold and not what wifi come out the other side. We want a vibrant, growing RSA in Levin that is relevant and useful to its community, that honours everyone who has served and contributed to getting us to that point.’


Mrs Lett
Bowlers Have Much To Thank Her For

How many bowlers, as they roll up in the pleasant surroundings of their respective greens, realise that croquet and and a woman had a lot to do with the growth of their sport in Levin?
   Apart from the Levin Bowling Club, which had its beginnings back in 1907, originally as a limited liability company, the bowling clubs have owed their initial start to the generosity of the late Mrs W. Lett.
   Her name crops records of Levin Central and Women’s Bowling clubs.

For instance the records of the Levin Women’s Bowling Club state: Nineteen members and their friends celebrated the club’s opening on Mrs Lett’s private green on November 7, 1942. . .Levin Central Club (formed 1938) recorded: Mrs W. Lett made a very generous offer of the use of her lawn temporarily. . ".
   But it Is the Levin RSA which owes most to Mrs Lett  as her son, Mr W. G. Clark told "The Chronicle": "My mother sowed the seeds of bowling on her croquet lawn.”
    One of those seeds germinated and flourished to become the now well established Levin RSA Bowling Club which was officially opened on Saturday November 25, 1949.
   The RSA was having serious thoughts about a bowling club to foster the social side of RSA activities as far back as February 1945, when a committee was formed to institute a Diggers Bowling Tournament.
   The tournament was held on March 11, 1945 and was such a success that it was decided to make it an annual event. On December 4, 1947 the Levin RSA Bowling Club was officially brought into being.

There were many distinguished personages at the official opening of the green in 1949, including the then Dominion president of the NZRSA, the late Sir Howard Kippenberger, . and then under-secretary of internal Affairs Mr (later Sir Arthur), A.J. Harper.
   But the honour of opening the green was bestowed on Mrs Left, who bowled the first bowl after Lady Kippenberger threw the jack. The RSA green was later to be the setting for another ceremony when the Clark Memorial Gates and the Avenue of Remembrance were officially opened on October 7, 1950, by the Governor General of the day, the late Lord Freyberg.
   Behind all this was the quiet figure of Mrs Lett. On February 2, 1948, she had come forward with the offer of an area of her land for an RSA bowling green. And so it all began. .
   Mrs Lett’s son, Mr Bill Clark, recalled when interviewed by The Chronicle: "I think I was the first singles winner on the RSA green."
   Mr Clark learnt croquet himself when convalescing in Wiltshire during World War I and he played it again when he came back to New Zealand.
   "His bowling initially was with the Levin Bowling Club. He recalled than when there was a move to form a second bowling club (in which he became involved), there was some concern expressed by fellow bowlers that this would have a detrimental effect on his own club.

He could not see that and the club went ahead with subsequent improved competition. Later, when helping the RSA club establish itself, he found the Central Club members having the same reservations, but time has proved the move to have benefited the sport.
    Mrs Lett  was always there encouraging the use of her lawn and lettlng the men have the use of the old cowshed on the property as a place to store their gear.

    Mr Clark recalled that the RSA green, which was the land donated by his mother, was originally a tennis court.
   A new house was built on what was once the green used for croquet and on which there were played friendly games of bowls with her friends, resulting in the women getting interested. “Thus, the seed for the Levin Ladies Bowling Club originated".


FORMER resident of Levin, Lord Freyberg (he was a dentist here before World War I) was present to open the Levin RSA Bowling Club's Clark Memorial Gates and Avenue of Remembrance in 1950 - during the period he was Governor General of NZ. Pictured are members of the official party on that occasion: From left, Mrs W. Lett, mother of Bill and Elsdon Clark, who gave the land to the club; the then Mayor of Levin, Mr H.B Burdekin; Mr Walter Lett; Lord Freyberg; and the then chairman of the Horowhenua County Council, Mr A.M. Colquhoun.

1950 Gates Ceremony
RSA Opening Bowling Green Levin