WHEN the NSW Police Force argued that the Goulburn Driver Training Centre was the only suitable location for a new firing range, because of a large existing earthmound, Cr Andrew Banfield’s response was simple: “Dirt is cheap.”
The development application was approved at last Wednesday night’s Council meeting, with the majority of councillors voting in favour, but it wasn’t without opposition.
When the DA went on public exhibition, council received seven submissions which contained the signatures of 21 nearby neighbours, including the Goulburn and District Race Club.
They were concerned about the level of noise the facility would emit, its hours of operation and the general lack of information.
They also wanted police to investigate other potential sites.
In his submission, Goulburn and District Race Club director Greg Wilson raised serious safety concerns about the proposal, suggesting it could even lead to a fatality.
“Much of the horse training takes place early on still, very frosty mornings. We are advised that the noise from the pistol range will be at its worst at these times,” he wrote.
“It is a sudden noise such as the firing of a pistol which creates the greatest concern to the Club as it may startle a horse and this may lead to the injury, or even worse, death of both the horse and rider.
“The Club starts races from the 1000m chute, which is located very close to the proposed pistol range on every race day.
If a pistol was discharged whilst a race was in progress it could have the capacity to cause a fall which would have catastrophic consequences for both horses and riders.
“This may also result in legal proceedings being instigated for damages against the Club. If this were to happen there is no doubt that the Club’s insurer would make a claim against UGL Services and Goulburn Mulwaree Council.”
Local horse trainer Guy Walter, who both owns a property nearby and regularly uses the Race Club facilities, echoed Mr Wilson’s concerns in his submission.
“Quite obviously, there are major safety concerns with firing pistols in close proximity to where horses are being exercised,” he wrote.
“I believe the proposal needs thorough investigation before it is allowed to proceed.”
On Wednesday night, Cr Banfield argued there was insufficient information to justify approving the facility. He didn’t believe the acoustic report was up to scratch and that signing off on it would be a mistake.
“There is nothing in there to indicate the calibre of the firearms being used. That goes to the level of noise and we need to get some clarification on it,” he said.
“If you are going to sound proof something you need to know what you’re dealing with.”
Council’s planning director Chris Stewart pointed out that police had provided information about the weapons in the report. He said officers would be firing Glocks and shotguns (no calibre was specified) as well as AR-10s and AR-15s.
In the end the facility was approved with Crs Kettle, Kirk, Rowland, Sturgiss Saville, Walker and James voting in favour.
Cr Banfield voted against and Cr O’Neill declared an interest, given her directorship of the Race Club.
The conditions of consent stipulated that the firing range must be enclosed around three sides and that operating hours be restricted to between 10am and 5pm five days a week, with an exception made once a week to allow for an evening session, with training to take place between 5pm and 10pm.
Police also agreed not to conduct any firing on race days. While initially objecting to conditions of consent, police advised Council last Wednesday they accepted all of them.