Shock at Cobaw shooting range decision

Centre fire rifle and shotgun activity will increase at Cobaw’s shooting range despite an appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia applied to extend its operating hours to meet growing user demand but a group of local residents fought the move, arguing it would exacerbate existing safety, environmental and amenity concerns.
Tensions have existed between the association and local residents since a shooting range proposal first aired in the 1990s.
Cobaw resident Marcus Ward said the ruling was “disappointing” and the move flew in the face of specific VCAT use limitations placed on the facility in 2003.
At that time, the tribunal had sought compromise by limiting centre fire rifle and shotgun use to two hours on a Saturday. The latest ruling increases activity to between 9am to 5pm Saturday EST and until 6pm during daylight savings.
“I’m gobsmacked,” Mr Ward said. “The SSAA asked for the same things 16 years ago and a compromise was reached. We accepted that was the final decision but now we can see that you can just keep returning to VCAT until you achieve what you want.”
Mr Ward was one of 20 objectors represented at VCAT but said there were “many more dissatisfied with the result”.
But in making his decision, VCAT member Michael Deidun said he did not regard the case as a “rehearing of the proceeding in 2003 or attempt by the applicant to sidestep that 2003 decision”.
“A key reason for my position is the passage of time…In those 16 years there have been significant changes to the relevant decision-making framework that would support a fresh approach,” Mr Deidun said.
Changes highlighted in the proceedings include those to the Macedon Ranges Planning Scheme at a state and local level, rezoning of the site and to the region and operations of another shooting range nearby.
Expert witnesses included Victoria Police Sergeant Paul Connor who has been regularly inspecting the site for safety and compliance since 2012. In concluding, Mr Deidun referred to the site as a “near ideal location for such a shooting range”.

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