Lead from gun club operations in the spotlight after operating certificate revoked

Plans by pistol shooter Raymond O'Brien for the Auckland Shooting Club have hit a snag after its certificate of ...
Lawrence Smith/Fairfax NZ

Plans by pistol shooter Raymond O'Brien for the Auckland Shooting Club have hit a snag after its certificate of compliance was revoked.

Concerns over lead from spent ammunition leaching into surrounding waterways prompted Auckland Council to revoke the controversial Auckland Shooters Club certificate of compliance.

The move could raise questions over whether testing for possible leaching at other gun club sites nationally should be looked at. Some have been operating on the same site for 130 years without testing. 

On the outskirts of Christchurch, Environment Canterbury has raised concerns about lead from a shotgun range, one of three gun clubs operating on the council-owned site, according to Dave Hodder from the North Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association. 

Soil from gun clubs can have a thousand times the concentration of lead as other soils.
Lawrence Smith/Fairfax NZ

Soil from gun clubs can have a thousand times the concentration of lead as other soils.

The site, close to the Waimakariri River, a drinking water source, sits on a permeable layer of schist.

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Researcher Corinne Rooney from Lincoln University found that while uncontaminated soil can have up to 10 milligrams of lead per kilogram of soil, shooting range soils can have more than 10,000 milligrams of lead, taking thousands of years to break down, and with the potential to leach lead for hundreds of years into the future.

Club members say they are disappointed by the council's decision.
Lawrence Smith/Fairfax NZ

Club members say they are disappointed by the council's decision.

The newly established Auckland Shooters Club had been at the centre of a row in the quiet rural backwater of Makarau, north Auckland, after competitive shooters Raymond O'Brien and Victoria Pichler were granted the certificate of compliance to set up and operate a gun club last year. 

The nearby Vipassana Meditation Centre, with strong backing from many in the Makarau community, challenged the certificate of compliance through the High Court. Makarau residents were concerned lead residue could get into aquifers used for drinking water.

It was referred it back to the council after it was found no assessment had been done on possible lead discharges.

Raymond O'Brien and Victoria Pilcher hope to establish the biggest gun clun in Australiasia in the Makarau valley.
Delwyn Dickey

Raymond O'Brien and Victoria Pilcher hope to establish the biggest gun clun in Australiasia in the Makarau valley.

Proposed methods to manage the discharge would reduce but not prevent it, independent commissioner Cherie Lane for Auckland Council found, so a resource consent was needed.   

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Club president Chris Gee was disheartened by the decision.

"Right from the start Auckland Council has been saying 'you don't need this and you don't need that', so it's really disappointing for them to now say that we do," he said.

With a stream running directly behind ranges residents have concerns over lead leaching into groundwater from the ...
Delwyn Dickey

With a stream running directly behind ranges residents have concerns over lead leaching into groundwater from the Auckland Shooters Club.

As a permitted activity land owners O'Brien and Pichler can still shoot on the land, but all club events have been stopped and cancelled for now, Gee said. 

Lead can have serious impacts on the body including damage to the brain and nervous system, kidney damage and cause spontaneous abortions.

Indoor ranges cause the most problems, with users inhaling lead from the dust from ammunition as it's fired.

 - Stuff

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