Hill Top Residents' Action Group Inc

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Media Release 10 December 2007
 
HIGHLANDS COMMUNITIES REJECT MEGA RIFLE RANGE

 

The small communities of Hill Top and surrounding villages in the Southern Highlands are rallying against a decision by the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor, to by-pass local planning laws and clear the way for a mega shooting range complex at their back door.

 

Mr Sartor’s latest move in the approval process is to gazette new regulations enabling him to circumvent limitations on his powers which he only introduced last July.

 

The proposed shooting complex is just 1.6 kms from the nearest homes, 3.5 kms from the main street of Hill Top, and about 4 kms from the local school. With up to 250 shooters using six ranges, which will be open seven days and some nights, locals believe the peaceful rural atmosphere will be shattered by the sound of constant gunfire.

 

 Yet the only consultation with the community has been two “information sheets” placed in letter boxes over the last 12 months which have failed to allay locals’ fears about safety, noise, lead contamination of pristine streams, threats to wildlife, bushfires and over-crowding of unsuitable roads.

 

Using special legislation, the State Government has excised 1,000 hectares of native bush from a State Conservation Area and leased it to seven private shooting clubs to develop the Southern Highlands Regional Shooting Complex. There is $5.2 million of taxpayers money being spent on the complex as part of a deal between the State Government and the Shooters Party several years ago.

 

A single 800 metre rifle range has existed on the site since 1986, despite the land never being zoned for the purpose. But last year the Department of Sport and Recreation submitted a planning application for a new complex with additional facilities and hours of operation:

 

  • Another rifle range
  • Another  pistol range
  • A shotgun range
  • Clubhouse with amenities
  • Armoury
  • New infrastructure including a gravel access road, generator, water storage and car park for 75 cars.
  • A complex to operate seven days a week
  • The Army to use the complex at their discretion.

In August 2007 the size of the proposal was significantly increased to add:

 

         An additional rifle/pistol range

         An indoor air pistol range

         Enlargement of one pistol range to 90 shooting positions

         A doubling of car parking spaces to 180.

         Expected peak use by 250 shooters

         6.5metre tall building

         Extensive clearing

         Shooting at night.

 

Hill Top Residents Action Group (HTRAG) representative Julie Cook said the group was not opposed to shooting as a recreation, but the development of such a large complex so close to homes and schools on conservation land was totally inappropriate.

 

“There are 750 homes within 5 kms of the existing range and even with the current limited use the sound of gunfire is distressing. The Development Application confirms that if this mega complex goes ahead there will be gunshots ringing out every day and some nights. It will be like living in a war zone.”

 

She said documents obtained by HTRAG showed that the Unsworth Government had overridden Wingecarribee Council’s zoning to push through approval for the original small range in 1986.

 

Even then, the National Parks and Wildlife Service had objected, telling the Council in a letter that its concerns included erosion of pristine areas; rocky outcrops on the site were important for wildlife; poor access; closeness to a popular bushwalking track and “extreme concern” that the site was a high fire risk. NPWS suggested more suitable sites. 

 

The land is zoned 1 (a) Rural which prohibits recreational use such as a shooting range. To by-pass the Wingecarribee Council, Mr Sartor deemed it to be a Major Project of State Significance, therefore making himself the consent authority, and paving the way for development approval.

 

Ironically, Mr Sartor introduced new planning regulations in July this year which prevent him from approving a development which is already prohibited by the local council’s zoning. HTRAG’s lawyers pointed this out to Mr Sartor in October, and on 16 November the regulations were quietly amended in the Government Gazette to allow the Minister to still consider any rezoning for a development  contrary to Council zoning  if the planning process had started before July, 2007. (The shooting complex was first proposed in 2006.)

 

An Environmental Assessment of the complex is due to be released soon for public comment, but the Action Group says it is a totally inappropriate site and should be abandoned now.  “Once again Mr Sartor is riding roughshod over small communities. He has performed some incredible legislative gymnastics to pave the way for this project to go ahead while the local community has been ignored. We are calling on the Government to abandon this inappropriate development and find an alternative suitable site for the shooting complex,” Ms Cook said.

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7 June 2007
Private Members Statement by Pru Goward, local member for Goulburn and Shadow Minister for Environment and Water:

Click here to read Pru Goward's statement

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Greens Councillor Jim Clark 
Wingecarribee Council 
 
 Media Release
6th MAY 2007

  HILL TOP SHOOTING COMPLEX NEEDS FULL EIS 

Greens Councillor Jim Clark has called for proposed regional shooting complex at Hill Top to be subject to a full Environmental Impact Statement to determine the suitability of the site for such a large scale facility.
 
Speaking after a Public meeting at the Hill Top Memorial hall on Sunday attended by around 75 people Clr Clark said, " The State Government shouldn't be using the pretext that this is a State Significant development to escape their environmental and social responsibilities to the residents of Hill Top. Excising 1000 ha from the Bargo State Conservation Area for a shooting complex shows how desperate the Government is to please the Shooters Party and win support in the Upper House of Parliament where they do not have a majority".
 
The public meeting called by the Hill Top Residents Action Group was told that the complex would be in use seven days a week between 9 and 5 by a combination of the members of seven existing gun clubs and would also be used at times by the military as a training complex. "The suitability of the site must be called into question given that most residents can hear shooting from the present small scale range. The Sydney Catchment Authority must also be made aware of the risk of Lead contamination of Rocky Waterholes Creek which feeds into Warragamba Dam  and would require major preventative works and provision for future remediation", said Clr Clark.

Council will not be the determining authority for the complex which would be decided by Planning Minister Frank Sartor but was asked by the meeting to support the community in opposing it. "It's amazing that the site has been chosen and excised by the Government from the Conservation area before any detailed studies are complete. What kind of proper planning process is that?" Clr Clark queried.

Contact: Clr Jim Clark
Ph- 0428 213939

 

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For immediate release: 4 May

Tranquil Town to be Spoiled by Gun Fire

MEDIA RELEASE

A mutli-million dollar shooting complex is about to descend upon the tranquil NSW Southern Highlands town known as Hill Top.

The facility will include pistol, rifle and shotgun ranges, with an armoury on site.

Residents of Hill Top are outraged by the development proposal and have organised a community lobby group to block the development.

The Convenor of the community lobby group opposing the development, Marbecc Webb, is calling on the Wingecarribee Council to reject the application. As she states, “After the recent Virginia Tech shooting we do not want our kids being exposed to guns in our community. Hill Top is a peaceful place and a conservation area. Our kids need more soccer fields not shooting facilities.

“Listening to gunfire 7 days a week does not fit with the zoning restrictions on some of the closest properties let alone the lifestyles of local families.

“There are 108 protected species of flora and fauna here. The area is also classified as a very high bushfire risk. More traffic and people moving in and out of the area exposes this fragile land to potential fire damage and irreversible environmental damage.”

A resident of Hill Top, and mother of a disabled child, is concerned what the noise of gun fire will have on her child. She states, “It is difficult enough managing the special demands my child requires without the additional stress that constant gunfire and traffic noise will create.”

In moves to block the development a Public Meeting will be held on Sunday 6 May at 2pm at the Hill Top War Memorial Hall on Wilson Drive, which is the main road into Hill Top that shooters of the proposed facility will use.

Guest speakers include Greens Member Sylvia Hale and Keith Muir from the Colong Foundation. Other guests include an experienced Environmental Scientist, and Deputy Mayor of the Wingecarribee Shire Council Nick Campbell-Jones.

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Thurs 26 April:

MEDIA RELEASE

NO GUN CLUB!

 

Local Opposition to State Govts Regional Shooting Complex Proposal

 

For immediate release: 26 April 2007

 

Residents say NO to Gun Lobby Deal

Local residents of Hill Top and Balmoral villages, in the Southern Highlands of NSW, have banded together to expose the State governments stealth plan to build a $4 million regional shooting facility in Hill Top on conservation land.

 

Spokesperson for the group, Marbecc Webb, says “we have used our limited resources in a battle just to get the message out there to the local community about this ill conceived plan.  It has been astounding how quiet the Dept of Sports and Recreation has kept this proposal in the hope of slipping it by local residents before anyone has had a chance to voice their opinions on the matter.  The plan is to start building in November and there has not been any consultation with the community, apart from a few one page flyers slipped into a handful of letterboxes the week of Christmas 2006.  Even if people found this flyer amongst the Christmas junk mail they had only 3 weeks over the Christmas/New Year break to source any information.  Conveniently, this happens to be the time of year when government offices are closed.”

 

“The clandestine nature of this plan has even included the audacious step of passing a Bill through State Parliament to remove the Crown Land title on the parcel of land they have their eyes on, again without any community consultation.  The main crux of the argument used to persuade parliamentarians included the promise to exchange the 1000 hectares of conservation land for another 2500 hectares in Mellong Swamps and land alongside the Bargo State Conservation Area.  Both parcels of land were either already proposed as a potential Reserve or Crown Land.  So there is no exchange just another example of how our precious environment is being destroyed for the pleasure of a few.”

 

“There have been handshake deals and flimsy election promises made in the past to appease the gun lobby that have been pushing for such a facility for 30 years.  This alone demonstrates the unwelcome response the public generally have to spending millions in tax-payer dollars to build more shooting ranges.  It is not only an unpopular proposal it is irresponsible.  The matter needs to come out into plain view for all to examine.  Relevant interested parties and State Government bodies need to have input before plans are drafted.  We call upon the Director-General of the Planning Department, Mr Sam Haddad, to stop any further progress of this development and allow time to conduct proper investigations into all areas of concern such as bushfire risks, water catchment interference, lead pollution, endangerment of local protected species, safety of our local community, inadequate road infrastructure, and the tremendous noise impact it will have on our peaceful village.

 

The group will be holding a Public Meeting at Hill Top War Memorial Hall, Sunday 6 May at 2pm to present information on the negative impact this development will have on our community.