RSA members selling poppies in Auckland have been escorted from the Otahuhu train station after they couldn’t present a permit.
Otahuhu RSA treasurer, Lesley Guptill, said they headed out to the south Auckland train station at 6.30am on Thursday, “as always,” but were asked to leave by security just minutes later.
Guptill said they always go to the station on the Thursday before Anzac Day, and had never had any problems until today.
“The security guys said that because we didn’t have a permit – which we’ve never ever had to have – we had to leave,” she said.
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Communications advisor for Auckland Transport, James Ireland, said AT “unreservedly apologise” for the incident.
“We should have used some discretion in this case,” Ireland said.
Security staff had been spoken to, and had been advised that in the future – especially for groups like the RSA around ANZAC Day – that they could apply discretion, he said.
Ireland said that whenever a charity wanted to collect money at a station they needed to apply for a permit to do it, primarily for health and safety reasons.
Permits were in place so security guards were aware of people at the station, especially if there was going to be money involved, but applied to all, he said.
Guptill said she had not been notified of any kind of policy requiring fundraisers to have permits, and had never had to in the past.
Richette Rodger has been the Otahuhu town manager for five years, and had never known this to happen, she said.
Rodger said collectors from the local RSA had been going to the station for years, playing their bagpipes and collecting money for poppies, so she was “so angry” when she was told what happened.
“It was such a shock.”
“They go every single year – one group goes down to the train station early in the morning to get the commuters. It’s always the same people. We even use the same table and chairs,” she said.
Money raised from selling poppies went toward the welfare section of the Otahuhu RSA, she said, which helped to support its members.
The welfare committee took people to doctors’ appointments, visited them in hospital, took them food and even bought members gifts at Christmas, she said.
“That’s the most heartbreaking bit. I know what the welfare section do, and what they’ve missed out on. That money could have gone so far.”
Rodger said the train station was where RSA members made most of their money from collections. Before they were walked off the property, they had collected $47 from they two trains that arrived at the station.
Rodger said it wasn’t anyone’s fault, but the result of a “complete breakdown in communication.”
“They’ve never not been allowed to be there,” she said.