Sumner RSA stuck in no-man’s land

Sumner-Redcliffs RSA President Bill Joines and his wife Rawi by the WWI Memorial plaque on the new Sumner Centre: Matuku Takotako. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER

The Sumner-Redcliffs RSA has been caught in no-man’s land since the February 22, 2011, earthquake destroyed its Wakefield Ave clubrooms.

Builder Ian Caldwell, 47, died when boulders from a cliff face crashed onto the RSA and a building site next door.

The building was red-stickered and subsequently demolished in 2014.

Since then, the club has been without a headquarters and there are no current plans to rebuild.

“We can’t,” president Bill Joines told the Bay Harbour News. “We don’t have any land.”

Though the club has been looking at different options, there’s nothing concrete on the horizon.

“We’re sounding out different places at the moment. We’ve had an insurance payout, but I don’t know if it will go to the extent of rebuilding.”

Sumner-Redcliffs RSA was started in 1932, as a sub-branch of the Christchurch RSA.

Early activities in the first year involved smoko, a social evening attended by the mayor and the club’s first annual dance.

However, the new club looked after more than just social events.

With high unemployment at that time, it was called upon to assist returned servicemen of the district experiencing financial distress.

In 1944 it bought a couple of army huts and relocated them to a section at 34 Wakefield Ave, where the club would remain for the next 70 years.

Numbers at the club have fallen dramatically since the earthquakes, from 200-300 down to 100.

With no base, the regulars now meet at Sumner’s Village Inn on Thursdays at 5pm.

Kitty Fenton is one of them – she says there’s usually about a dozen people there.

“We meet and have a bit of a yarn, a catch up and a drink. Then at 6pm, the president says the Ode of Remembrance, ‘Lest We Forget.’”

She says after six years, she’s got used to not having a building.

Mr Joines, who served in the SAS from 1955-58, said one of the options they would consider was joining another local club, similar to what the New Brighton RSA had done.

It’s now linked with the New Brighton Bowling Club with which it shares a room, becoming the New Brighton Bowling Club and RSA.

Sumner Bowling Club secretary Colin Thompson said the idea had been brought up informally in the past, but no formal approach had been made by the Sumner RSA.

Mr Thompson wouldn’t comment on whether the club would be open to the idea, saying it would be up to the committee.

The bowling club’s Richmond Hill Rd clubrooms are being rebuilt next year, with work expected to start in April.

Meanwhile, two 1947 bronze plaques commemorating the Anzacs – placed on stone columns at the entrance to the former RSA clubrooms – are to be brought out of storage and the columns rebuilt.

The city council is working with stonemasons on the project and will look at reusing some of the original stone, which was salvaged and stockpiled in Lyttelton.

Rawi Joines said she was looking forward to the columns being completed before next year’s Anzac day commemorations.

•Footage of the RSA building during the February 22, 2011 earthquake: