Chairman of the Hastings Regional Shooting Complex, John Tingle, said land given to the local council by the old Port Macquarie Rifle Club had led to shooting on the 1000-yard range now be suspended.
It was revealed in the Port Macquarie News on Friday that shooting on the 1000-yard range range had been stopped by the Firearms Registry (FAR) amid safety concerns brought on by the proximity of the extended runway at the local airport and the range's drop zone. However, the six other ranges at the complex are still open.
Port Macquarie Rifle Club (one of the complex’s users) captain Malcolm McKenzie told the newspaper that an unconfirmed report had been given to the FAR claiming users of the 1000-yard range had not followed correct procedure resulting in a requirement for it to become a “no danger range”.
This means securing the range so that no stray bullets can escape from it, a task that would be financially restrictive and therefore would effectively shut down shooting over 1000 yards – a distance required for international competition.
"It's hugely difficult and expensive to do," Mr McKenzie is quoted as saying in the newspaper report. "You would be looking at millions and millions of dollars. We haven't had a single incident that has occurred outside our boundaries in 113 years.
"It just seems like someone out there doesn't want us here anymore, they want us to move and that's probably what we are going to have to end up doing. Technically they've told us to do something they know we can't do."
On seeing the newspaper article, Shooters Party founder Mr Tingle said on an online forum that shooting on the 1000-yard range had been suspended while the possibility of making it a no danger area was examined.
“The problem is that the range points directly at the runway of Port Macquarie Airport, and the extended runway now crosses the drop zone of the range at a distance of about 900 metres (from the end of the range).
“This arises because some years ago the old Port Macquarie Rifle Club ceded the land behind the stop butts to the Council which built the airport there.
“It was not a major problem until they needed to extend the main runway to the south - which was the only direction in which it could be extended.
“This meant the runway cut right into what is still effectively the drop zone of the 1000-yard range, almost at right angles.
“When the airlines questioned the safety of this the Council paid $40,000 to have a ballistics study of the situation which concluded that there was small but real risk of a round hitting an aircraft.”
Mr Tingle refuted the claim by Mr McKenzie in the newspaper report that the chance of that happening was one in a billion, saying that the chance was much greater.
“The point is that the problem would not exist if the airport had not been built where it is, but the airport would not have been built where it is if the Rifle Club had not ceded the bit of land to the council,” he said.
The 1000-yard range was only allowed to operate one half day a week under restrictions by the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, the Firearms Registry and the Hastings Regional Shooting Complex, a condition that Mr Tingle said was hard won.
“The 1000-yard range is one of seven ranges on the Hastings Regional Shooting Complex,” he said. “It is the only range affected. We have bent over backwards to keep that range operating - raised the butt to 14 metres, negotiated endlessly with the airlines, CASA and the police to extend the shooting hours, etc.”
“The Rifle Club was limited to shooting on Saturday afternoons when traffic is light, and this continued until the Range Inspector turned up one afternoon and claimed that the SOP set in place to allow shooting to stop when an aircraft approached or took off were not being followed.
“As Chairman of the Complex I have lodged a, formal request for an Internal Review and have obtained legal advice about an appeal to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal in the event of this not succeeding.
“The newspaper story does not help, especially when it is accompanied by a picture of a member of the club seated at a bench with a rifle on a tripod pointing at the camera. It does little to win the public mind, I would think, and makes my job just a bit harder.”