Christchurch RSA 'forced' to rethink plans due to debt

Photo: File image / RNZ / Nathan McKinnon
Photo: File image / RNZ / Nathan McKinnon
Christchurch Returned and Services Association (RSA) leaders say financial woes, which have left the organisation without premises, are forcing a rethink of how it operates.

Christchurch RSA Holdings Ltd, the local business arm, is in liquidation after the closure of its central city restaurant and bar business, Trenches, in 2019.

The holdings company has been unable to pay more than $592,000 of outstanding debt to creditors.

The arrears include $171,000 for unpaid GST and employee tax to the Inland Revenue Department, $38,000 to Lion NZ Limited and $382,000 to other businesses.

Christchurch City Council refused to comment on whether it was a creditor, or how much it was owed.

Christchurch RSA president Dennis Mardle said the group sold its Armagh St building for $3.4m to cover its debt.

"It's just another step in the process that we've been going through since 2019," he said.

"It means a lot of money that was created by former servicemen and women has been lost.

"What it's done is forced us to look at the future and redirect how we work or how the RSA has functioned in Christchurch for 108 years."

Mardle said the controlling body was not liable to cover the remaining debt incurred by the holding company, which also had no assets to sell off.

The sale of its premises ensured it could settle its mortgage and inter-party loans.

The Christchurch Memorial RSA is a group of four legal entities governed and managed by the Christchurch RSA.

It is comprised of the association, the RSA trust board, the RSA museum and support trust and the holdings company.

In September 2022, the RSA developed its first strategic plan and arranged an audit to review how the situation transpired.

"Our focus should be as it was back in 1915, when the founding fathers of the Christchurch Soldiers Club formed, to support the families of those who had passed away in Gallipoli.

"And to support those who returned from that conflict initially with injuries, and to help advocate for them with the government."

He said they would not need any further support in future beyond what they received during the association's Poppy Day Appeal before every Anzac Day.

There had been no drop-off of poppy sales, he said.

Mardle said the reputation of the Christchurch RSA had "taken a pounding" due to the situation.

"We are working as an executive committee to restore the public's faith."

By Adam Burns