Pistol range in neighbours' sights

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 08:00 25/03/2014

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Residents living near a pistol range in Foxton are concerned someone could be hurt by what they say is the use of "high-powered" guns beside a pony club.

But the gun club's president says members are shooting within the rules set by Horowhenua District Council and the problem lies with hunters illegally using the surrounding forest.

The Levin Pistol Club's outdoor range is located on Target Reserve between Foxton's racecourse, golf club and the Moutua Pony Club.

Living across State Highway 1 from the club, about 400 metres away by his reckoning, is Ken Amey. Mr Amey, who served in the army and has his own gun licence, has been campaigning against the four-year-old shooting range for the past year.

"We don't have a problem with them firing pistols, the problem is high-powered guns," he said.

Mr Amey said at times it sounded like there was "an army" firing away across the road. Shooting could continue well into the night or start as early as 5.30am, he said.

"Sometimes it just gets like an absolute war up there."

Neighbour Liz Gillespie said she had pulled her 7-year-old daughter out of the pony club across the road because she was unhappy about the gun club's presence.

They now travelled to Otaki instead for pony club.

"Guns and horses don't mix, guns and children don't mix, guns and horses and children are a really bad idea," Mrs Gillespie said.

She said she had been at pony club events in Foxton when guns were being fired at the pistol club. People had packed their trailers and left as a result, she said. An August Foxton Community Board meeting was told of gunfire spooking a horse, causing it to bolt with its young rider clinging on.

Pistol club president Mike Barker said the club tried to work with other users of Target Reserve to avoid clashes between itself and other users.

The club had resource consent to use pistols up to .45 calibre between 8am and 7pm, conditions the club met, he said.

Mr Barker said he was aware of people hunting in Target Reserve and adjoining land for rabbits and game birds, who would be using larger guns.

"I've been on the range and heard other gunfire than ours."

This is what he believed residents across SH1 were hearing and mistaking for the pistol club.

The range itself, which aimed in the direction of a 25m high hill between it and the pony club, had been certified as safe by Pistol New Zealand and the police, he said.

Horowhenua District Council parks and leisure manager Duncan de Burgh backed up what Mr Barker said.

"The club has only been using pistols allowed under their resource consent - both council and the pistol club are aware that there have been larger calibre firearms being used either in or around the reserve."

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This was happening on council land where hunting was forbidden and on private land near Target Reserve.

Neither Mrs Gillespie nor Mr Amey say they were consulted about the pistol range - they also believe the pony club was not either.

Mr de Burgh said the resource consent for the shooting range required approval from the council, the Foxton Community Board, and the two adjacent land owners, the Foxton Golf Club and the Foxton Racing Club.

Asked for his take on the issue, Horowhenua Mayor Brendan Duffy said there was no concern with how the pistol club was operating.

It would not be possible to please the residents the Manawatu Standard had spoken to, he said.

"If we moved the shooting range to Mars they'd still be complaining. Nobody else has an issue - the racing club, riding club, pony club, they're all happy."

- Manawatu Standard

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