Grievence Debate: Mount Gambier Returned and Services League

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Published Thursday, November 16, 2017 | Share:

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:17): It is with pleasure that I rise to talk about the Mount Gambier RSL, which celebrated its 100th anniversary on 15 July this year. Of course, I and many others were in attendance. The Mount Gambier RSL was established in 1917 and in 1921 was established at the corner of Bay Road and Commercial Street. In 1946, with the return of servicemen from World War II, discussions were held about shifting from that site and land was purchased at the corner of Commercial Street and Wehl Street, opposite Vansittart Gardens.

The site was not developed. It was decided to redevelop the current site at the corner of Commercial Street and Bay Road, which is right on the main corner, at a cost of £52,000. It was subsequently opened in 1957, where the RSL stayed for 30 years. In 1987, a very heavy rain storm came through Mount Gambier. Water came into the RSL, dripping down the walls, and discussions were again underway to make a move. Another factor for the relocation from the main corner was that the RSL was at the top of two flights of stairs, making it difficult for ageing members as well as those who prepared food for functions.

In 1989, a deal was done with a prominent businessperson to relocate to Sturt Street. The RSL rented a very small section of a building. In 1992, discussions commenced about introducing pokie machines to generate income for the RSL, with the machines arriving in 1994. A 10-year plan was developed in 1994 to buy out the existing owners of the building so that the RSL could eventually own the whole site. This was achieved over a three-stage project, with the RSL slowly purchasing out the existing owners. Today, the Mount Gambier RSL would be one of the biggest RSLs in South Australia and the longest serving in regional South Australia. Unfortunately, the RSL has faced some financial challenges due to decisions made many years ago.

I give praise to the committee of the RSL and the president, Bob Sandow vice president, Chris Smaling; and vice president, Peter Bruhn, and committee members Malcolm Driscoll, Marg Whitfield, Rod Wewer, Ian Summers, Trevor Ruth, Dale Fox and Peter Zukauskas, with the management group that runs the RSL Peter Zukauskas, Sam Dwyer, Kelly Copeland and Tracey Allen. The RSL is pleased that since announcing its financial woes, with the outstanding support of locals within the Limestone Coast region it is starting to stand on its own two feet. However, some decisions of many years ago still haunt the RSL today.

An honourable member: What about the state government?

Mr BELL: I was getting to that. I give credit to the state government. On 21 September 2017, the Hon. Kyam Maher in the other place, on behalf of the state government, announced the intent to provide a secured loan of $200,000 to the RSL. Unfortunately, at this point in time that money has not come through, but I know the RSL is working tirelessly to meet the demands required, and I still give much credit to the state government.

I also give credit to the Mount Gambier city council, which lifted a land management agreement on the Ferrers Street car park, a disused section. That can now be sold at a value of about $300,000 which, again, will provide much-needed relief to the RSL. The city council has also provided rate relief by way of 50 per cent reduction in their rates for a two-year period. I am very confident that the current board of the RSL, with the expert leadership we are now seeing, has the RSL back on track. We just need that last little hurdle of the $200,000 to come through, and I am pretty sure it will.

On Monday, Dan Tehan held a fundraiser, raising $15,500, and I commend Dan for coming over and doing that. With that, I conclude my remarks.