RSA struggling financially as it faces modernising, new president says

RSA national president Sir Wayne Shelford.
RSA national president Sir Wayne Shelford. Photo credit: Photosport

By Andrew McRae of RNZ

More funding is needed to assist veterans, including those who have served in recent defence deployments overseas, the Returned and Services Association says.

Newly elected president Sir Wayne Shelford said $2 million raised on Poppy Day and other grants received did not go far enough to support more than 30,000 veterans and their families.

As a voluntary organisation the RSA was struggling financially, he said.

''The money doesn't go very far. It is always an up-hill battle and that is the main issue facing the RSA, that of funding.

''We need the money to actually look after our returned servicemen and women.''

There was a need for about eight paid, highly skilled support workers across the country, he said.

''If we had another couple of million dollars per annum I think would cover a lot of the wages for the extra support staff and things like that and what we need to do at the same time, Veterans' Affairs need to look at themselves because they are a little bit slow on determining what is going on with the health and well being of these people (veterans).''

'Modernising' the RSA

The organisation was just as relevant today as it was when founded in 1916, Sir Wayne said. However, it was important to attract younger veterans.

''Since 1990 we have basically created approximately 40,000 veterans. People who have been in the military, been overseas, been in campaigns, and you know that is a lot of people who have been overseas in the last 30-years and have been in our forces.'

''Forty thousand veterans created but we only know of 30,000 getting support. The other 10,000 we don't know where they are.''

Once they left the military the RSA did not know where they went.

''They become civilians and get involved in civilian life. A lot of the younger ones forget that the RSA is here to support them.

''We will eventually find them. They are out there. A lot of them just don't want anything to do with the military after doing 20-25 years or even five years. They just get on with their lives.''

The RSA was trying to make it more relevant to younger people who had served, and it had to reinvent itself, Sir Wayne said.

''A lot of younger vets see it (RSA) as for old persons, but we don't, we actually think there is relevance there for them. If you want to take your family to the RSA then you have to have something there for the kids.

''It's (about) modernising the RSA's to welcome families.''

The question for members was where they wanted the RSA to be in 10 years, Sir Wayne said.

''Is it going to be looking the same as it is now? Well, at the moment she's pretty dated, you know.'

''A lot of the RSA's are dated as regards to decor, but other have refurbished themselves and have done a really good job. Some of the modern ones are really, really nice. That is probably more relevant for younger vets.''

The RSA was slowly setting up having small offices staffed by volunteers on Defence Force bases across the country.

''While the NZDF is there first to assist serving personnel, the RSA is there as a back stop if they need any help.''

Sir Wayne, better known as a former All Black captain, served in the Royal New Zealand Navy. A high-profile gained over the years may have been a factor in him being elected national president, he said.

Sir Wayne believed the RSA hasd a lot of support with the public. "It only comes really only once a year with Anzac Day.''