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Not happy . . . Former territorial Paul Glass (left) with guide dog Drew, Lawrence Tyree (centre), ex-compulsory military training member, and Vietnam War veteran Terry Farrell say old soldiers who started the SCRSA and operated it for most of its history have been let down. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

A battle has been raging over the sale of the South Canterbury RSA’s property in Wai-iti Rd.

A group of veterans is calling for a halt, while the SCRSA is adamant the sale will proceed and is angered by the group’s possible disruption of the sale.

Veterans group members said they had no confidence the SCRSA executive would act in the best interests of the club.

SCRSA president Lee Johns said the executive had the support of the majority of members and the sale would proceed.

Adamant . . . Vietnam War veteran Terry Farrell says the SCRSA was started and run by veterans and they should still have a major say. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

Veterans group spokesman Terry Farrell alleged rule changes had been made to the constitution that had not followed correct procedure and a new place.

Under the old constitution, veterans controlled key positions in the club and the majority of seats on the executive. This stopped after the rule was changed, ending a situation which had existed from the club’s inception 100 years ago of veterans being in control.

Mr Farrell said he felt veterans had been “frozen out”.

Mrs Johns admitted “an administration error” had been made when the rule was made but it had been rectified and the vote to end the quota system on the executive went to members and was passed.

“All we wanted to do was have a look at the books . . . “

Mr Farrell said several years ago he and his group had attempted to find out the full story of the club’s failing finances, which were not being audited.

One of the group members, Paul Glass, who is blind and has a guide dog, said he, Mr Farrell, Mervyn Tyree and Lawrence Tyree were suspended for “bringing the club into disrepute”.

“All we wanted to do was have a look at the books . . . ”

Concerns over the state of the finances have been shared by other members, including retired accountant Noel Dellow.

“I understand the 2017 and 2018 finances were looked at by the auditors and they refused to sign because there were a lot of inconsistencies.

“That’s still where it is at.

SCRSA’s timeline of troubled times

2013: A proposal to develop housing on SCRSA land arises; nominee company SCRSA Nominee Ltd is formed and a flexi-loan of $234,000 taken with ANZ for the development. Before the loan, SCRSA’s debt stood at $56,000. Approaches are made to the Timaru Town and Country Club regarding possible merger but after a vote of members not continued.

2014: On August 20, the Timaru District Council issues a resource consent subject to conditions for a two-allotment subdivision and a variation to the car park layout. However, the subdivision plan is shelved. A total of $65,158 of the loan money is accounted for.

2015: Revived merger talks with Timaru Town and Country Club end. RSA members vote against amalgamation. An audit report for the year to June 30 says the club has a loss of $148,615 but has sufficient assets to repay creditors and is solvent.

2016: Finances not audited. June 6: club reveals it is not earning enough to cover costs.

2017: Finances not audited. A new mortgage is taken out.

2018: Finances not audited.

2019: War medals on loan reported missing; a day later six medals returned but other memorabilia also reported missing. In April, members vote to sell the RSA property. In June, a variation to the mortgage is made and new membership options announced.

“If the auditor refuses to sign them, it’s pretty serious.”

Mr Farrell said one auditor refused to sign off the accounts and another, when asked why he did not sign them said: “Sorry, no comment.”

Asked why the finances were not signed off by the auditors, Mrs Johns said there had been “issues” regarding their “robustness”.

“Our auditor has started with a clean slate. The next ones [accounts] will be out for the next financial year. We’ve started afresh and we’ve got a new financial system.”

In the past it had been “too clunky for us and fragmented”, Mrs Johns said.

Mr Dellow said on one occasion he asked the then president if he could look at the minute books and was told, “you can’t get them – they’ve been lost”.

Mr Dellow said any reputable organisation would ensure minutes were kept in a safe place.

“That should show to the public how inefficient it has been.”

Mr Farrell said he and others were concerned the sale was being done by tender, which lacked transparency, in their view.

Mrs Johns said the sale was being done via tender because of commercial sensitivity.

The sale is being handled by the SCRSA’s honorary lawyer, David Forman, of RSM Law.

Executive members were not allowed to tender and the executive would not know the names of people making the tender, Mrs Johns said.

The 6684sqm property has been marketed through an advertisement in the The Courier and via a sign outside in Wai-iti Rd.

The rateable valuation (RV) as of September 2017 was $2.85million.

“We don’t have the budget to advertise nationwide and we’re doing it by tender because we won’t have to pay real estate agent’s fees,” Mrs Johns said.

Mr Farrell said he thought such a valuable property should be marketed extensively.

“We’ve started afresh and we’ve got a new financial system.”

Bindi Norwell, chief executive of the Real Estate real estate agents would usually advertise as widely as possible in order to reach a broad audience and try to sell the property in a timely manner.

She said when the tender closed the vendor could select whichever tender had the most favourable terms for them.

“This does not always mean a vendor will take the tender with the highest price.”

On August 20, 2014, the Timaru District Council issued a resource consent, subject to conditions, allowing high-density residential use with townhouse flats and smaller allotment sizes, and the subdivision of the SCRSA property into two lots.

This consent is included in the marketing of the property.

The Courier asked the Timaru District Council if it would be interested in tendering. Council spokesman Stephen Doran said the council had no current plans to tender for the property.

Tenders close on August 30.