Shooters have beaten the Commonwealth in a legal battle to save the Anzac Rifle Range on Sydney’s Malabar Headland.
The Supreme Court today found that the Commonwealth had no right to evict the NSW Rifle Association from the range, nor could it stop the NSWRA using the range.
The Commonwealth wants to transfer the entire headland, of which the range is a significant portion, to the NSW government as a national park.
As it moved towards the handover, the Commonwealth evicted a number of other tenants but the NSWRA fought against the cancellation of its licence on a number of grounds.
The Commonwealth had argued that it was in the public interest to terminate the NSWRA’s licence. It also attempted to evict the association based on its failure to carry out certain remedial work on buildings and land.
Following the judgment, it appears the NSWRA and its affiliated clubs will be able to use the range indefinitely – at least until the Commonwealth can fulfil an obligation to relocate the association before closing Anzac Range.
The land could still be transferred to NSW but only if the NSWRA can continue to use the range under the existing conditions, making such a move highly unlikely.
The court ordered the Commonwealth to pay legal costs for the NSWRA.
Meanwhile, there is growing anger among former users of the headland as government claims about high levels of asbestos are shown to be wrong.
Tests have revealed asbestos levels were well within safe levels, despite the Commonwealth claiming the dangers were high enough to justify shutting down sporting activities on the headland.
Many headland users, including shooters, have accused the government of fear-mongering and of trying to wriggle out of legal and moral obligations in its push to achieve former federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s ambition of turning the land into a national park.
Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Brown said Garrett had been given a “bloody nose” over the issue.
Mr Brown also congratulated the NSWRA on its victory.