Editorial- "Sometimes, Councils Ought not to Listen"

Editorial: "As Auckland expands under its new Unitary Plan, the council is

going to have to deal with the kind of tension that has emerged at Brookby

near Clevedon. Brookby is the home of the Auckland Pistol Club that has been

in existence for 47 years. It is one of the largest gun clubs in the

country, drawing members from all over the Auckland region and Waikato. It

holds firing sessions on Wednesday afternoons and at weekends and sometimes

hosts North Island and national handgun championships. Land adjacent to the

club has been subdivided for housing and a few months ago the first

residents moved in. Soon the club was the subject of a noise complaint to

the council.

 

Obviously the residents knew the gun club was there before they bought their

houses. The club has never hidden its existence. It has a proud sign on the

gate saying, "Auckland Shooting Complex". Was that not a hint to prospective

neighbours? By what right do any of them think they now have a right to

complain?

 

The Auckland Council's noise control inspectors might have pointed this out

to the complainants but they did not. They notified the club of the

complaint and asked the council to take remedial steps. The club has closed

in the interim and spent $40,000 on a report by a sound engineer. Now it

fears it could be forced to spend $500,000 on sound mitigation measures and

close some ranges. This is a disgrace.

 

It happens too often that people move into a residential development in a

semi-rural area and expect their rights to supersede those of activities

well established in the district and known to them before they moved in.

Perhaps they imagine that when an urban council designates the area for

residential development, the council has a responsibility to remove or

mitigate any nearby activities that would detract from their quality of

life. Worse, the council may accept this responsibility. Worse still, the

law may be on the side of the newcomers.

 

The Resource Management Act is imbued with a spirit of consultation,

compromise and mitigation, but in situations where an existing activity

presents a predictable noise, odour or the like, people are buying with

their eyes open. In cases such as this, it appears at least some are moving

in with the expectation they will be able to force the gun club to go

elsewhere. The new Brookby resident has not needed to approach the club

directly. The person has sent the complaints to the council, which keeps

complainants' identities confidential. The council's resource consents

compliance manager, Steve Pearce, has told the Herald "We are currently

working with both the property owner and the club."

 

He should be telling the new resident in plain language the pistol club has

prior rights. Its bursts of gunfire on Wednesday afternoons and weekends are

a nuisance newcomers to the district should have been aware of, and knew

they would have to live with it, much like residents who buy into an area

under an airport flight path. Every time councils listen to complaints like

this one, they do a rank injustice to those who were there before.

 

- NZ Herald August 2016