The SSAA rifle range at Wagga Wagga has been closed by the Firearms Registry in what the SFP has described as an act of oppression.

Range closures an act of FAR ‘oppression’

Many shooting ranges in NSW are facing closure or expensive rebuilds after the Firearms Registry (FAR) stepped in and declared them unsafe in what Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Borsak has described as an act of oppression.

The latest casualty was Wagga Wagga’s Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) range that had only recently been upgraded to 500m at a cost of $40,000 with the blessing of State Forests who had the abutting land that formed the drop zone for stray bullets.

With the change in tenure for that land to National Park, that agreement had become redundant and according to Mr Borsak, the FAR is now going through and shutting down ranges where similar situations apply.

“This has all come about through no impetus at all – there is no public dissent, there is no change in law,” he said. “The only change has been that there was a change in tenure for the land in the fall out zones which makes no difference.”

It appears the stumbling block is that National Parks and Wildlife Service are not prepared to offer the same concessions that State Forests had, an issue that SSAA is working on.

“The recent range closure at Wagga is very disappointing,” Diana Melham, Executive Director SSAA NSW, told Sporting Shooter in a prepared statement. “SSAA NSW will continue to work closely with our local Branch, the NSW Firearms Registry and National Parks and Wildlife Service with a view to having this wonderful facility re-opened as quickly as possible.

“Having invested heavily in ranges throughout the State, SSAA NSW is concerned about any range closure but we remain committed to ensuring that our 50,000 members have appropriate facilities available to them.

“We are currently seeking a meeting with the new NSW Sports Minister Gabrielle Upton to discuss a number of issues relating to our sport including the lack of range facilities, range closures and the under-utilisation of existing ranges such as Hill Top.”

The Wagga Wagga range is on land bought by the club in the late 1980s and has happily operated and expanded with full compliance until the FAR stepped in and arbitrarily closed it without warning.

SSAA Wagga Wagga president Greg Hannon said that unless National Parks relented on the drop zone issue, the only course open to them now was to spend more money to upgrade the range.

“We’re looking at a way to get the range open, or to redesign the range to include baffles,” he told Sporting Shooter. “So on the surface of it, we’ve got some improvements to make to the range.”

However, Mr Borsak has warned that if the FAR continued down this track, there would be many more closures.

“They’ve done the same to Emmaville – it’s been a range since 1916,” he said.

“There have been no incidents there so all that’s happened is the Firearms Registry has walked in there and basically told them their fall out zone now doesn’t comply and you’re going to have to realign your range three degrees to the west.

“Someone in the registry has decided that the NATO military template shall apply to civilian ranges – from what I know, that template is designed for artillery ranges. That has absolutely nothing to do with civilian ranges in NSW.

“Out at Silverdale, they’ve forced those guys to spend $40,000 lifting the butts and putting in deeper and stronger baffling to stop the bullets escaping from the range. But you’d be hard put to find a safer range in NSW – it’s in an old quarry where you shoot into a wall.

“The way it’s been run at the moment is any risk is too much risk, but that’s not the way the real world runs. The reason this is happening is that there are people in the registry with no skill, knowledge or professionalism in this area making the decisions.

“We have put to the government and the new Firearms Registry manager Superintendent Bruce Lyons that a proper process of risk assessment be carried out by a recognised professional in range management.

“The Firearms Registry should not be used as a tool of oppression; it should be a tool of customer service.”




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