Waitangirua gun range faces closure

BY ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 09:43 02/10/2012

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Porirua's recreational shooters face losing their Waitangirua range in a double threat from the gun-shy Greater Wellington Regional Council and Transmission Gully motorway.

The Porirua Shooting Association, which comprises the 270 members of the Porirua Pistol Club; the Wellington Rifle and Gun Club and the Porirua branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association, have occupied part of the former Waitangirua farm since 1974.

Porirua City Council bought the farm in 2005 and made it part of Belmont Regional Park. Next year the council will hand management of the land to Greater Wellington Regional Council, which does not allow gun activity in its parks.

The shooters worry that when the club's lease with the council expires in 2014, the regional council will close their activities down.

"They have a history of closing off regional parks to users such as us," says Ian Murray, president of the Wellington Rifle and Gun Club.

Another threat comes from the NZ Transport Agency, which ionstructing Transmission Gully through the range. The agency has agreed to relocate and compensate the clubs, but only if they have a valid lease.

"The devil sitting on my shoulder says 'are they sitting there waiting for our lease to expire?"' Mr Murray said.

"We know we have to move, but let's just ensure that everything that was agreed on and put in place in good faith some years back carries on."

Club representatives asked Porirua City councillors last week to renew their lease despite the handover to the regional council.

"We've had a really good relationship with Porirua [City Council] over the years and had no issues at all, and suddenly we've got the possibility of this being handed back to the regional council and where does that leave us?' Mr Murray said.

"Please help us out."

Ideally the clubs would like to build a new range on a former munitions dump on Waitangirua farm, he said.

The farm is a safe place to shoot and there are no neighbours to complain about gun noise. "We're out of sight and out of mind."

Other ranges in the Wellington region are close to housing or are unable to be used year-round, so Waitangirua farm could attract more shooters in the future, and more money into Porirua, Mr Murray said.

"If they put us in a little gully somewhere, we wouldn't be able to expand and nobody benefits."

Porirua city councillor Euon Murrell said the council is waiting on a report from officers on the lease. It is possible the council could renew the gun clubs' lease with a "demolition clause", so the lease would expire when Transmission Gully is built.

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Greater Wellington parks spokeswoman Elizabeth King says the regional council is waiting for a formal approach from NZTA to make a decision on the future of the shooting range, after which they will access according to their concessions criteria.

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- Kapi-Mana News

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