In a move that may present a positive boost for the southern Fleurieu Peninsula, three sporting groups want to form an alliance to buy and share their own ground.
The Southern Clay Target Club, Mud ’n Tars Motor Cycle Club and the Quad Riders Association of South Australia have been made to feel unwelcome in the region because of their respective noise levels.
The solution, according to Michael Veenstra, of Goolwa, a state team member and junior development coordinator for the SA Clay Target Association, was to borrow about $300,000 and buy and share their own land that met appropriate requirements.
“We are looking at grounds at the moment, but there’s a long way to go,” Michael said. “Options have fallen over – safety boundaries, noise problems. The motor cycle club has bigger noise issues than we do.
“I believe from a state planning point of view, condensing these – what you would call extreme sports – to the one more isolated location would make everyone happier.
“Any land we buy would be a non-complying development and would need to be rezoned. We are hoping for support from the state government, and anything we propose would need to be opened for public comment. A development application could take 18 months to be approved.
“We have exhausted all avenues of government funding; there is none for us to purchase land. We would have to borrow money, and it’s a reason why we have joined the other two groups.
“Land around here is expensive – we’re looking at a minimum of 40 acres. A gun club needs at least 20 acres because of the fall-out area, even though you may be only using five or six – the rest is safety area. We would share the clubrooms, and obviously program our events around each other so not to clash.”
Michael said from his club’s point of view, the bottom line was that if it didn’t find new grounds soon the club would fold.
“We cannot keep going indefinitely,” Michael said. “At the moment we hold just one shoot a year which is the Birthday Shoot in the last Sunday in November at Monarto.
“Not having the grounds has hurt our membership with some of the members joining other clubs. Once we start again on the Fleurieu Peninsula we are confident those who have let their membership lapse will start up again.”
The clay target club was based at the Port Elliot Showgrounds and then the old picnic race meeting track, the Mud ’n Tars club has held meetings at Parawa, while the Quad Riders Association wants to expand its meetings to the Fleurieu Peninsula.
The noise levels the three sports produce is an understandable concern for residents – and a suitable common ground is logical for all – but the clay target shooters also face other challenges, particularly relating to an image of guns.
Michael, who has been competing for two years, said that when he told people he was involved in shooting as a sport the reaction varied. But when he says “like Michael Diamond” there is total acceptance because of Diamond’s gold medal success at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games in trap shooting.
“People say, oh, that’s an Olympic sport so it’s okay,” Michael said. “It’s been an Olympic sport since the beginning of the modern Olympics in 1896 and we enjoyed early success (Donald Mackintosh, who was blind in one eye, was Australia’s first medallist in shooting, winning gold and bronze in Paris in 1900).
“Clay target shooting is a sport you can compete into your 80s or 90s… I know one guy who turned 89 the other day and he still shoots at quite a good level.
“As long as your eyesight holds up you may compete. It’s one of the few sports where men and women are really equal; there is no benefit either way, but the big difference is that there is a lot more men competing than women.
“I used to duck shoot when I was younger; a few field and game stuff, but then I didn’t go.
“As a junior, if your parents don’t do shooting you cannot do it because you cannot afford it; you can’t do the travel and importantly, obviously you cannot have a gun. Your parents need to be behind you.
“In my role as the junior development coordinator at the SA Clay Target Association I go to field days in an attempt to get the parents into shooting. You are targeting the 30-40 year olds who have children, and that’s how you get the kids involved in the sport. It’s no good targeting kids unless the parents are prepared to put the time, money and effort into it.
“It is an expensive sport. My ammunition would cost me $50 a week; it’s a lot over time.”
Michael said the Southern Clay Target Club had more than 100 people attend one of its ‘come and try’ days. “We were overwhelmed,” he said. “We had about a dozen kids and people in their 60s. Unfortunately, the club lost its grounds and we weren’t able to chase the potential new members up.
“When we finished (at Port Elliot) we had 52 members in our club, plus a lot of volunteers who weren’t shooting members. We would like to get them back and more.
“Despite the challenges of losing our grounds the passion for clay shooting remains; it’s an addictive sport. When you first start shooting and you do it well you just want to practice and practice to get better.
“There are about 700 people in the state shooting, and nationally 14,000. People are from all backgrounds; you get a broad diversity in ages, but in the country most of them are farmers. A lot of Italians compete in the sport in Adelaide because it is very big in Italy.
“It is easier to entice shooters from the country regions because there is not the stigma associated with guns. There is no doubt that sporting gun ownership over the past 10 or 20 years has dropped, particularly since the Port Arthur massacre (April 28-29, 1996).
“In Victoria they have a very big schools competition because they have a lot of large regional centres; it’s huge, especially in the private schools in areas like Ballarat and Bendigo.
“Our Southern club has seven female members, the most female shooters of any club in the state, but it doesn’t help when you don’t have your own grounds to compete.”