Gun club cleared to build firing range close to meditation retreat

By Phil Vine

Firing a pistol at a shooting range. Photo/File
Firing a pistol at a shooting range. Photo/File

A gun club has been cleared to build a firing range two doors down from a silent meditation retreat on the outskirts of Auckland.

The newly-formed Auckland Shooting Club claims the sound of gunfire from 6am to 6pm will seem little more than "gentle raindrops on the roof" for their neighbours. But residents adjacent to the club are upset they only found out about the plans by accident.

The location of the club near Kaukapakapa is close to the Vipassana Meditation Centre. Students on 10-day residential courses are not meant to talk for the first nine days. Ross Reynolds from the centre said: "This may change the nature of our tranquillity."

He added: "We thought we were totally protected here. It is so incompatible with our lives, to be thinking about pistol shots."

The wider rural community of Makarau was astonished to learn of "secret" plans for the shooting complex.

"It was a heck of a fright," says neighbour Lesley Rowntree. "A nightmare for those who have to live next door."

She describes it as a "bull in a china shop" planning decision.

"This is hard land that we have turned into our piece of paradise," she said. "The thing we appreciate most is peace and quiet,"

The community found out about the shooting development quite by accident.

Rowntree's neighbour put the name of their road - Tuhirangi - into Google and he stumbled across a gun club website. It revealed ambitious plans for a $5 million to $6 million pistol and rifle range just over the fence.

To their surprise, when Rowntree and her neighbours rang the local authority, they discovered it was a done deal. Auckland Council had already issued a certificate of compliance. Auckland Council has made no comment about the proximity of the gun club to the meditation centre. It has confirmed the certificate of compliance means the club doesn't have to apply for resource consent.

Rowntree said: "We were told the land was zoned rural and a range is permitted and supported by the Unitary Plan."

Shooting club spokesman Raymond O'Brien said there was "no intent of secrecy. We've been quite open about it."

O'Brien, who has competed for New Zealand in pistol shooting events, said: "We want to be good neighbours, very good neighbours."

Rowntree however asked why neighbours weren't extended the "common courtesy" of being told what was going on. They only found out last week. Documents show the application for compliance was lodged with the council on June 20.

"We had it on our list to talk to neighbours but just hadn't got round to it," O'Brien said.
"What we're doing is a completely allowable activity."

Neighbour Kris Allen, who shares a fence line with the club, was upset by the council decision.
"I can't let my kids (ages 5 and 7) go down that side. I bought the farm so they could roam and explore the countryside."

Allen used to practice clay pigeon shooting in his native England: "This is not countryside shooting, this is special forces training for idiots. It's not a sport - it's learning how to take out humans." But O'Brien said club members were responsible, law-abiding and safety conscious.

He added: "Pistol shooting is a large growing sport. This will be a fantastic asset for New Zealand.

At the Vipassana retreat they're talking double glazing and acceptance. Said Reynolds: "We try not to get antagonistic or agitated. That is part of our practice."

- NZ Herald

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