A meditation centre battling against a neighbouring shooting club in rural Auckland is claiming a small victory after the Auckland Council revoked the club's compliance certificate following High Court action.
The Auckland Shooting Club says it's "hurt" and disappointed after investing millions into the club after initially getting approval to operate by the council, but the club's neighbours say they are looking forward to returning to "tranquillity" following the council decision.
The club's presence in Makarau Valley, a rural area near Kaukapakapa, was met with widespread opposition from the area's residents, including the Vipassana Meditation Centre, who were upset they weren't notified of the operation.
The centre has been in the valley since 1986 and is 800 metres from the shooting range.
The saga between the neighbours, including local iwi, has played out over the past year, since club owners Victoria Pichler and Raymond O'Brien began planning its opening.
The club claims right from the beginning it has been in close discussions with the Auckland Council over the operation and management of the club, and has been left flabbergasted that its compliance has been revoked.
"(Pichler and O'Brien) talked to council right at the very outset, and I think that's what hurts the most. They said to the council, 'Tis is what we're thinking about doing, what are the rules and guidelines?'" club president Chris Gee says.
The club was told a discharge resource consent wasn't required for the lead discharge from the guns, and they were granted a certificate of compliance last year.
Pichler and O'Brien subsequently invested $3 million to get the space up and running.
The battle between the groups subsequently went to the High Court with the meditation centre asking Justice Christian Whata to overturn the compliance certificate.
Instead, Justice Whata directed the issue back to the council for further consideration after finding two flaws in the granting of the certificate, namely that the original application failed to record the existence of a building on the site, and that it contained no information about compliance with discharge standards under the Resource Management Act.
In the meantime, the club was officially opened in July by National Party deputy Paula Bennett. Its certificate was revoked on Thursday.
Duty commissioner Cherie Lane said in the decision that while the club had a plan for the management of discharge and contaminants, the methods would only reduce the likelihood and quantity.
"They will not prevent it," the report said.
The decision was welcomed by the meditation centre's board trustee, Kirsty McKay, who said the certificate should never have been issued in the first place.
"While this position ought to have been reached much earlier, we are delighted that justice will finally prevail, and that tranquillity will now return to the Makarau Valley community," she said.
Although the club had previously described the noise disruption to residents as akin to hearing raindrops on a roof, McKay said the noise had a "significant impact" on the community.
"To suggest that a 33-range gun club for pistols, rifles and shotguns won't have an impact on the community is beyond belief," she says.
Chris Gee is baffled at the council's "about turn", referring to a letter the club received in December which specifically said resource consent wasn't required- although the letter said discharge consent might be needed "in the future".
Their compliance certificate was sound so long as they didn't discharge above a certain threshold Gee believes, and he claimed the club had been at pains to ensure its discharge was "slim to none", by having the shooters fire into bullet captures.
"(Auckland Council's) definition is (that) an act that creates discharge would require resource consent. We just don't understand. It's ludicrous."
He says under the council's interpretation of the Resource Management Act, any discharge onto land is illegal, including shots fired by hunters.
"It feels like the Auckland Council is targeting us because they've had pressure from other people," Gee says.
"To ask all those questions and to be told you don't require consent...it just seems like if enough people complain about it, you can get away with anything."
He said the club was just like any other sports club, and it promoted safe shooting and responsible gun ownership.
Its members were disappointed, and the club intended to take the matter back to court, he said.
Auckland Council northern resource consenting manager Ian Dobson said after reviewing the certificate the council deemed a resource consent was necessary.
"There will be a discharge of contaminants resulting from the activity on site, which is not expressly permitted by the planning documents," he said.
"This discharge requires a resource consent. Therefore, in accordance with the High Court judgment, council have revoked the certificate of compliance originally granted to the Auckland Shooting Club.
"This decision does not assess the merits or otherwise of the activity, and only addresses the need for a resource consent."