BIG DECISIONS: Just part of the crowd at Sunday's Gympie RSL Club annual general meeting as secretary manager Roy Shipp gave details the the club's bold new golf course expansion plan.
BIG DECISIONS: Just part of the crowd at Sunday's Gympie RSL Club annual general meeting as secretary manager Roy Shipp gave details the the club's bold new golf course expansion plan. Arthur Gorrie

Gympie RSL Club - no direction on new direction

IT WAS standing room only at Gympie RSL Club's annual general meeting on Sunday, when members heard their first detailed report on a plan to shift the club to Gympie Pines Golf Course and potentially sever its ties to the Returned Services League.

A huge crowd of more than 260 people easily packed out the upstairs meeting room to hear about the bold new plan.

The concept was outlined in an enthusiastically received report from club secretary/manager Roy Shipp, who presented artist impressions of planned purpose-built facilities able to provide for a rapidly growing community and a club which he said had already begun to outgrow its current environment.

"I'll bet not all of you were able to get a park this morning," he said.

BIG PLANS: An artist's impression of Gympie RSL Club's proposed new golf club venue.
BIG PLANS: An artist's impression of Gympie RSL Club's proposed new golf club venue. Contributed

Mr Shipp said detailed negotiations were in progress with both the Gympie RSL Sub Branch regarding the future of its Mary St lease and the Gympie Pines Golf Club, which Mr Shipp said the club was proposing to buy.

Some members expressed surprise that the club's new multi-million-dollar direction was being pursued in such detail without any direction from members, who have yet to be given a chance to vote on the plan.

Despite apparently enthusiastic support at the meeting, the club committee did not include the issue on the voting agenda.

When president Glen Shepherd closed the meeting without putting the plan to a vote, one member asked if a vote would be held.

"No vote of support is needed today," Mr Shepherd said.

That ruling raised some eyebrows, especially after a presentation which indicated negotiations to buy the golf club were already in a very advanced stage, with due diligence in progress and rapid movement towards a purchase predicted after that.

Some sub branch members questioned the propriety of proceeding with major planned change and expansion, at major expense, without clear membership support.

One agreed that it seemed surprising that a vote was not held at a meeting where the "ayes" appeared to have a clear majority.

RSL ROW: Gympie RSL Club may merge with the Gympie Pines Golf Club and possibly other sporting groups members approve a move to new premises at this morning's annual general meeting.
RSL ROW: Gympie RSL Club may merge with the Gympie Pines Golf Club and possibly other sporting groups members approve a move to new premises at this morning's annual general meeting. Arthur Gorrie

Strong support

Mr Shipp's address was interrupted only by applause as he told how improved facilities would make the club more family friendly, with professionally supervised child care.

"Properly trained professionals will feed and look after the kids and give parents a night out and a bit of a break," he said.

"And Gympie is full of families," he said.

Sporting involvement

He outlined a plan to involve other sporting organisations, giving them meeting and headquarters facilities and bringing the community together through involvement with community and sporting organisations.

He expanded on earlier club announcements including an advertisement saying that "as an inclusive community club, we need to expand our support to the greater community to incorporate sporting organisations, enhance and contribute to the local economy by way of donations, increasing employment, buying local and using local contractors."

Mr Shipp said the golf club was seen by many as being "in the middle of nowhere" but was really only five minutes from Mary St.

The planned new multi-million dollar building at the golf club would be slightly bigger but would not affect the course's 18-hole status.

Accessibility

It would incorporate ramps wherever possible instead of stairs and lifts and he agreed that wheelchair lifts could be a solution for people who had trouble with even gentle ramp elevations.

Ready for growth

He said other nearby properties might be purchased in the future and, after Gympie is by-passed, a more direct link could be built to give access of the current Bruce Hwy.

He said he had been told Gympie's growth would be particularly strong to the north, placing the club in a good position, especially for its recreation, gaming and bottleshop facilities.

Parking would be improved and the problem of people parking illegally while they went CBD shopping would not apply at the golf club.

Financial success and contribution

Club financial officer, accountant Cos Schuh, reported that the club's profit of about $86,000 had allowed it to support charitable activities and sporting groups and other worthy causes.

It's wages bill had delivered $1.5 million into the Gympie region economy.

Its purchases of goods and services had also helped the local economy.

The club had worked to build its strategic positon to ensure it remained viable.

Praise for manager

Mr Shepherd gave credit for the club's financial success to Mr Shipp's "absolutely dynamic" performance, which he described as "better than any previous custodian had been able to achieve."

He had "brought the club back from its worst moments."

"Good figures"

Mr Schuh said bar, kitchen and coffee sales sales were up substantially and many of the costs had also contributed to the economy through flow-on spending effects.

Reserves were up, as was expenditure, but net profit was slightly down at $452,500, compared to $572,300 last financial year.

Assets were up and liabilities down.

"Although the economic climate in Gympie is hopefully improving, it can still be challenging," he said.

Rent was up $12,000 to $377,675.

The argument for change - "Under pressure to grow with community"

Mr Shipp told members Gympie had a big future and it was estimated that roughly 20,000 people were expected to move to Gympie in the next few years, partly because of the affordability of housing.

People were able to sell at the Sunshine Coast and buy in Gympie and be mortgage free, he said.

This growth was already putting the club under pressure, he said.

"The restaurant is turning people back every Friday and Saturday and some will not come back.

"We need to grow to survive. In business, once youy flatline, you go downhill and that is a direction we don't want to go," he said.

The club had to "source some different options."

"We have a vision for the future of the club."

New organisation

The new club would be known as the Gympie Recreation, Sports and Services Club.

Sub Branch officials have already indicated that they will not allow the RSL name or signage to be taken somewhere else and used by another organisation.

But Mr Shipp said one option being discussed with the RSL Sub Branch was to also have the RSL Club at its current venue, both wrapped up in the same club "so that if you are a member of one, you are a member of both.

"We want to continue out support to the community organisations we have supported so far."

"We believe there is a big want in the community," he said.