The Commonwealth has dropped its legal challenge to the NSW Rifle Association’s right to stay at Sydney’s Anzac Range, withdrawing its action and agreeing to pay $420,000.
The NSW Rifle Association was advised yesterday of the Commonwealth’s decision to end its appeal against an earlier ruling that it could not break its contract with the NSWRA and evict the shooting organisation from the range.
The Commonwealth Government wanted to resume the land and turn it into a national park, and it had already excluded a number of former resident organisations including shooting and other recreational clubs.
The NSWRA had a contract that included a clause preventeding the government from evicting it unless the organisation was first fully relocated to another suitable venue in the Sydney region, but the Commonwealth tried to wriggle out of the contract, starting a court battle that shooters eventually won.
Despite initially vowing to appeal against the decision, the Commonwealth now appears to have accepted that it would fail.
“This is fantastic news and a significant victory for the NSWRA,” chairman John Fitzgerald said.
He said the $420,000 in costs to be paid by the Commonwealth did not cover the full expenses the association incurred in defending its tenure, but he called it “reasonable”.
“All in all, I consider it an understatement when saying we have come out of this with a great win for justice and a secure future for the NSWRA,” he said.
The Commonwealth’s withdrawal means shooters will be able to stay on at the historic range indefinitely, news that gave Mr Fitzgerald plenty of reason for good cheer.
“I can now wish everyone a most merry Christmas with a bright light at the end of the tunnel for 2013, without the threat of our sport suffering the severe blow of termination at Anzac hanging over our heads,” he said.
At this stage it is not clear when the Commonwealth might push ahead with finding a new venue for the NSWRA, nor how much longer Anzac Range would operate, although there is no immediate threat of change.
The military range at Holsworthy is understood to be the preferred and most obvious option, but it is by no means a certainty.