Editorial: Sometimes, council ought not to listen

Auckland City Council representatives speak to media on the release of new housing plans for Auckland and Rural Auckland. Photo / Nick Reed
Auckland City Council representatives speak to media on the release of new housing plans for Auckland and Rural Auckland. Photo / Nick Reed

As Auckland expands under its new Unitary Plan, the council is going to have to deal with the kind of tension that has emerged at Brookby near Clevedon. Brookby is the home of the Auckland Pistol Club that has been in existence for 47 years. It is one of the largest gun clubs in the country, drawing members from all over the Auckland region and Waikato. It holds firing sessions on Wednesday afternoons and at weekends and sometimes hosts North Island and national handgun championships. Land adjacent to the club has been subdivided for housing and a few months ago the first residents moved in. Soon the club was the subject of a noise complaint to the council.

Obviously the residents knew the gun club was there before they bought their houses. The club has never hidden its existence. It has a proud sign on the gate saying, "Auckland Shooting Complex". Was that not a hint to prospective neighbours? By what right do any of them think they now have a right to complain?

The Auckland Council's noise control inspectors might have pointed this out to the complainants but they did not. They notified the club of the complaint and asked the council to take remedial steps. The club has closed in the interim and spent $40,000 on a report by a sound engineer. Now it fears it could be forced to spend $500,000 on sound mitigation measures and close some ranges. This is a disgrace.

It happens too often that people move into a residential development in a semi-rural area and expect their rights to supersede those of activities well established in the district and known to them before they moved in. Perhaps they imagine that when an urban council designates the area for residential development, the council has a responsibility to remove or mitigate any nearby activities that would detract from their quality of life. Worse, the council may accept this responsibility. Worse still, the law may be on the side of the newcomers.

The Resource Management Act is imbued with a spirit of consultation, compromise and mitigation, but in situations where an existing activity presents a predictable noise, odour or the like, people are buying with their eyes open. In cases such as this, it appears at least some are moving in with the expectation they will be able to force the gun club to go elsewhere. The new Brookby resident has not needed to approach the club directly. The person has sent the complaints to the council, which keeps complainants' identities confidential. The council's resource consents compliance manager, Steve Pearce, has told the Herald "We are currently working with both the property owner and the club."

He should be telling the new resident in plain language the pistol club has prior rights. Its bursts of gunfire on Wednesday afternoons and weekends are a nuisance newcomers to the district should have been aware of, and knew they would have to live with it, much like residents who buy into an area under an airport flight path. Every time councils listen to complaints like this one, they do a rank injustice to those who were there before.

- NZ Herald

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