Country's largest gun club to be built next to meditation centre
The biggest gun club in the country is set to open next to a major meditation centre in a quiet rural valley in Makarau, north of Auckland.
Between rolling hills and surrounded by native bush, up to 1,500 meditators a year hand in their cellphones, sit cross-legged and suspend all connection with the outside world for ten days while they observe their breathing in silence.
The silence will be broken when New Zealand representative pistol shooter Raymond O'Brien and his wife Victoria Pichler open what they say will be the southern hemisphere's best shooting facility two valleys away.
The Vipassana Meditation Centre.and immediate neighbours are alarmed the shooting facility, which will eventually sport 30 gun ranges – including two shotgun ranges and a 300 metre rifle range – will be on their doorstep.
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"This is a very beautiful valley and extremely quiet. It offers a pristine and tranquil environment for our students. We don't know how it will affect us," head meditation teacher Ross Reynolds said.
Uncomfortable about the use of guns, he hoped meditators wouldn't be disturbed by them.
"We can hear their bell as they start meditation classes so they will certainly be able to hear any gun fire," said Lesley Rowntree, one of the 15 lifestyle block residents and immediate neighbours of the new gun club.
"The thing we appreciate most is the peace and quiet. We are willing to travel long distances every day for work so long as we have our sanctuary to return to,"
Neighbour Chris Allen fears for the safety of his two young children and is also angry at the prospect of the noise.
"They say the sound would be like rainfall on the roof, but who wants to listen to that all weekend."
New Zealand representative shooter Raymond O'Brien is between a rock and a hard place - wanting to be a good neighbour, while growing shooting as a sport in New Zealand.
"I approached the council asking where an appropriate piece of land with the right zoning would be. Acoustic testing has been carried out and we're below the threshold.
"A bird call from 10 metres away is 60 decibels, while our readings were 48 and lower.
"There is a demand for a facility like this – it's a growing sport and if we want to be competitive in it we need a facility that will foster training and growth."
O'Brien said he bought a large piece of land, so that much of it would act as a shield from the sound of gunfire.
"This land has pine forest on two sides and steep terrain which would be unlikely to be built on, it's designed so it would be as far away as possible from the neighbours and from the road."
Neighbours believe they've had little opportunity to oppose the gun club because it's been granted a certificate of compliance to operate, but does not need resource consent and no notifications were given to immediate neighbours.
According to Auckland Council's manager of northern resource consenting, Ian Dobson, outdoor firing ranges for pistols in rural areas are classified as recreational. This means only a certificate of compliance is required, instead of resource consent.
"We are told there is no process we can follow and building will go ahead," said Rowntree.
The initial plans supplied to the council are small - just two pistol areas of around six ranges in each, and a small existing building..
The council has accepted an acoustic assessment confirming the small 12 range plan would comply with the district plan noise rules. Resource consents would be needed for parts of the bigger plan.
The couples' plans only came to light for neighbours when they saw the Auckland Shooting Club website.
Clubs are coming under increasing pressure from neighbours over noise. The Waitemata Clay Target Club at Kumeu may lose its zoning to operate, over noise issues.
O'Brien is also a member of the Auckland Pistol Club at Brookby which may have to spend hundreds of thousands to mitigate noise after complaints from neighbours.
Most clubs hours are restricted to around six to seven hours in the weekend and a few hours on one weekday.
- Sunday Star Times