Photo courtesy Precision Rifle NSW

Southern Highlands Shooting Complex reportedly being sold


The future of target shooting sports in NSW’s Southern Highlands is under threat, with the state government reportedly planning to offload the multi-million dollar Southern Highlands Regional Shooting Complex (SHRSC) in Hill Top, about an hour’s drive west of Wollongong in the Illawarra region.

SHRSC, completed in 2020, is home to several clubs including Precision Rifle NSW, SSAA Illawarra and the Southern Highlands Rifle Club. It features an 800m range, a 500m range and a 50m Pistol range, along with approvals for another 200m range and additional clubhouse.

SHRSC has rifles ranges of 500m and 800, plus a pistol range. [Photo courtesy Precision Rifle NSW]

However, the range is understood to have only been properly in operation for two years since its completion, thanks to a combination of the COVID pandemic and an eight-month long review of safety and operation procedures.

Precision Rifle NSW raised the alarm earlier this week about a plan by the NSW Government to sell the complex, following a meeting on 12 June where shooting complex user organisations were informed:

• The NSW Cabinet has made a decision to divest the complex from the Office of Sport as part of a cost-cutting exercise, either via sale or long-term lease.

• The expression of interest (EOI) process is still in design and development, but will be targeted and specifically offered to the shooting industry (both club and investor levels), with the intention being to retain the Complex as an operational shooting facility.

• There is currently no official timeline for the EOI finalisation or any handover of the range.

• It will be business as usual at the range until there is a solution.

• If no-one can be found to continue the range operations, then the government will need to reassess the divestment solution.

• Property and Development NSW will handle and advise the tender/EOI process and handle all legal and legislative requirements. This will be under the direction of the Office of Sport.

The Office of Sport apparently stressed it would prefer to see the ranges continue to operate under whatever deal was struck. However, that would depend upon finding a new owner or lessee that was prepared to operate the range.

Precision Rifle NSW vice-president David Foster said the major concern was that, given the SHRSC runs at a considerable loss, there would be no-one who considered the range commercially viable — and as a result the complex might end up being handed back to the National Parks & Wildlife Service, which was almost certain to shut it down.

“We are concerned a commercial operator is not going to prioritise sporting outcomes — and that’s if you can even find one that’s looking at taking it on,” he said.

“Because this was a complex built for target sport shooting, not casual shooting, it is not set up as a money-making enterprise, but the State Government is potentially looking to offload it to someone who can make a profit off it and that will mean the end of competition shooting for us.

“We’re concerned that if they put it out to expressions of interest next month, and don’t get anything that floats their boat, they’ll say there was no suitable offer and offer the complex to National Parks & Wildlife.

“It’s going to be a massive problem for our club because it’s the only range within six hours of Sydney suitable for our competitions. Otherwise we have to go to Canberra, which is in a different state.”

Further complicating the situation, a number of the clubs at the complex are understood to have received tenure at SHRSC via a form of ‘land swap’ agreement in compensation for the loss of their previous ranges, which were resumed for construction of a highway in the region.

Those clubs that relinquished their ranges in exchange for a place at SHRSC could potentially end up with nothing if it is closed down.

Mr Foster said the loss of the SHRSC would be felt throughout the entire region, would negatively impact many shooting clubs, and would effectively end the entire Precision Rifle disciple in NSW.

“We have club members and associates that have put their life savings into starting businesses that supply parts and equipment specifically for our shooting discipline. If the range was to close, it would cause significant loss of income for these people,” he said.

“I also am a committee member of the Australian Precision Rifle Association, which helps our precision rifle shooters get to the world championships.  

“A range closure at Hill Top would effectively end the precision rifle discipline in NSW, and our shooters from NSW would not gain the opportunity be able to represent their country on the world stage, like I was able to do last year.”

 

 

 


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Royce Wilson

Royce is something rare in Australia: A journalist who really likes guns. He has been interested in firearms as long as he can remember, and is particularly interested in military and police firearms from the 19th Century to the present. In addition to historical and collectible firearms, he is also a keen video gamer and has written for several major newspapers and websites on that subject.

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