‘Shot up road signs will become a common sight’

For 20 years the club ran the Kids Shoot programme alongside the police and defence force to foster community relationships and teach firearms safety at an early age. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

GIANINA SCHWANECKE

gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Pongaroa residents fear new gun club standards to be brought in under the Arms Legislation Bill currently before parliament, could lead to the closure of the more than 120-year-old Pongaroa Gun Club.

The bill suggests increased costs of between $850 to $2500 for the added certification processes plus other unspecified costs, a “lot of money for a little club”, president Mark Wheeler said.

He said the proposed conditions for licensing and certifying gun clubs and shooting ranges would be financially crippling and would “drive a lot of clubs to the wall”.

The proposal also means clubs require consent from regional authorities.

“Many of the clubs were started long before the RMA [Resource Management Act] even existed. The costs for consenting are crippling.”

The Pongaroa Gun Club can trace its origins back to 1898 and has close to 60 members ranging in age from promising secondary school shooters to 74-year-olds.

They included farriers, former police and defence force staff, fire service personnel, pilots, and of course a lot of farmers.

“It’s a good cross section of our community.”

Wheeler said the gun club was a valuable part of the community, providing a safe and supportive environment for people to shoot competitively, recreationally, or gain a firearms license to become proficient.

“Local outdoor recreational sporting opportunities are a vital component of rural life.

“Distance often precludes travel to central locations, and the competitive nature of rural folk coupled with the social interaction clubs provide are part of the glue that keeps rural communities going.”

The club had produced national champions and New Zealand shooting representatives.

Other sporting facilities were at least an hour drive away, he said.

Most importantly, gun clubs provided structure for people to learn good gun safety skills, he said.

“The number one thing they do is firearm safety.”

Wheeler said the closure of gun clubs would mean there would be a generation of poorly trained gun users out there.

It would push people onto private land, where they might not have permission to shoot or do so in an unsafe manner.

“Gun clubs provide an important training space. [It’s] going to release people into the wild.”

Regrettably, shot up road signs would become a more common sight, he said.

He disagreed that gun clubs were places where extremist views were fostered and said more legislation wouldn’t solve anything.

He questioned why other shooting clubs like paintball and airsoft ranges, which encourage shooting people as targets, were not held to the same standards.

The proposed changes were just one more thing for rural communities to deal with and he said he was frustrated by the small submission window.

“This community is already under pressure from government policies and this is just another small chip at our way of life.

“It’s just frustrating.”

Wheeler encouraged people to make submissions on the Bill as it had wider implications.

Proposed changes in the Bill include creating a firearms registry, expanding the licensing regime to cover parts, magazines, and ammunition, and creating a licensing regime for shooting clubs and ranges.

  • Submissions close at midnight next Wednesday.
  • More information can be found online at: parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/committees-press-releases/have-your-say-on-the-arms-legislation-bill/