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Motueka RSA – where everyone knows your name

A couple of weeks ago I dropped in to see Rebecca Hodges, the manager at the Motueka RSA because, to me, places like RSA’s and other clubs fill a huge need in the community. These places aren’t about fancy restaurant food or fine wines, they are places that bring the community together and provide a valuable and safe place for people to gather and talk, enjoying delicious freshly cooked meals with a beer or wine and, most importantly, have some companionship.

There has been plenty in the news about how RSA’s and other community groups struggle for funding and have challenges attracting membership.

I could get all philosophical and talk about younger generations needing different experiences than older generations and how those experiences don’t always fit with joining clubs, but rather than do that I want to encourage everyone to embrace the facilities in their local communities and support them.

The Motueka RSA is a perfect example of a community facility that is very well run, provides a wide range of things for members and guests to do, and is a place that people can gather and share.

Kevin Sweeney (Navy) Kyle Abbott (Airforce) and Steve Cox (Airforce)

Rebecca told me they have about 1200 members, many from out of the region, but only around 20-30 are older war veterans. “Unfortunately, as time has passed by we have lost all World War 1 and all but one of our World War 2 veterans. We still have a few who served in Korea and Vietnam as well as some who spent time in war zones like Afghanistan and Timor Leste. We also need to remember these people come from every arm of the military and that membership to the RSA is open to all public services like St John, the police and the fire service. Many of these people deal with horrendous situations and need support too.”

As Rebecca showed me around the facilities at the Motueka RSA she talked about some of the special things they have, including a table made by a veteran that has been masterfully created as a safe and secure place to display memorabilia. The tabletop is made from a single flitch of wood with spaces carved out to have donated pieces embedded in the table and then covered in glass. It even has an old military stretcher as a shelf and chains from a warship as a footrest.

“Other than the incredible gift Dave Shand gave us by making the table, probably the most sentimentally valuable pieces embedded in the table are Moeke Paaka’s dog tags from Vietnam. When he left the war zone he placed his dog tags in a tree and a couple of years ago someone found them in that tree. When they realized the significance of the find they searched for the owner of the tags. They are now a really important part of our special table.”

The current Motueka RSA President is Kyle Abbott and he told me the RSA is a really important part of people’s lives, “one returned serviceman, Dion Taka, was critically injured in Afghanistan and comes in most club nights with his service dog. Seeing Dion dealing with the results of his injuries everyday is a real inspiration to all of our members and as an RSA movement we are there to support him in any way we can.

Kevin Sweeney, Judy Sweeney, Kyle Abbott, Steve Cox and Barry O’Neill sitting around the memorial table

“We need to remember that the RSAs don’t just have older servicemen and woman in our membership, those currently serving our country locally and internationally are supported by the RSA too. From the army, air force and navy to the police, fires service and St John staff there are many people who put themselves in danger so we can live a free and safe life. They are also there to help us in times of need, so we need to make sure we’re there for them too.”

Steve Cox is the Veterans Support Manager for the top of the South Island, including the West Coast, and he says there are many people who need support in our community. “It’s often perceived that because someone has returned from a war zone or been involved in a horrific situation that they will just get on with a normal life. But when we see people like Dion who has to live the rest of his life with the results of his injuries we need to remember that not every serviceman or woman who returns home does so fully intact. These people are quite often overlooked in our communities, so the RSA plays a vital role in ensuring their ongoing wellbeing.”

So what happens at the Motueka RSA? It may be a surprise to many but the conversation around the tables isn’t about war or trauma, it’s generally about what happened this week, who got into trouble for be late home, what’s everyone doing next weekend and the usual joking and laughter you hear in any pub around the country.

As well as being a place people can talk about shared experiences with people who have had similar experiences the RSA also has great food prepared by Donna Mattsen who makes affordable, freshly cooked food that members want. Rebecca told me that “for some members who live alone these meals are an important part of their week, a meal they can share with others rather than sitting at home by themselves, after all cooking a healthy, nutritious meal for one isn’t always top of the list for some people.”

As far as entertainment goes, the Motueka RSA has a very strong pool and snooker club, a fishing club that has regular trips on the water chasing an elusive meal and a very strong darts group that plays in and hosts regular tournaments. The RSA Motueka Bowls club also recently hosted the national RSA Bowls tournament.

There’s a lot more happening at this RSA than just the very popular raffles for fantastic meat packs (no supermarket sausages here), petrol vouchers and supermarket vouchers. Rebecca says “we want to give members a prize that is really useful to them.” And they have a small wine club, finding that out caught my attention, I think I might just have to find a member who can invite me as a guest to these events.

the sliver of sun in the top and bottom of this image refers to soldiers moving from light to shadow

Non-members are welcome to attend as a guest and anyone who may be interested in enjoying the facilities, great selection of beers and wines or a freshly cooked are welcome to drop in, check out the facilities or make contact to see what the Motueka RSA might have to offer you.

Groups can also host events like birthday parties and other celebrations at the venue, some businesses have functions and training sessions there because Donna makes food they can enjoy for morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea.

My final word is to get out there and support your local community facilities, especially when they are as well run as the Motueka RSA, we don’t want to lose these important community treasures.

Published in the Nelson Mail 2024-04-20 

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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