Neighbourhood watch — local residents are keeping an eye on the neighbouring firing range. Alastair Nicol is on the right

West Melton residents fire back

by Mike Isle

A group of West Melton residents living close to the army’s firing range is up in arms about a letter they received from the council asking for feedback on a proposed ‘no complaints’ provision in the current district plan review.

The proposal by the council is to establish a noise control boundary around the firing range, and new development or subdivision within that range be subject to a covenant with NZ Defence Forces preventing property owners complaining about noise.

The council says that there would be legal costs associated with the covenant and these would need to be covered by the property owner or developer. There would also be resource consent costs with a subdivision.

The council goes on to say in its letter that: “If a no complaints covenant is not entered into, it is proposed that a more restrictive resource consent process would apply, and the application would be subject to a greater degree of scrutiny by the council.”

That is not sitting well with residents who are asking “why now?” and “what has changed?” Alastair Nicol who has lived near the West Melton Rifle range for many years told The Record: “I’ve talked with a number of people living in the zone around the West Melton Rifle Range who recently got [the] letter from Selwyn District Council.

“The council asked for feedback, and I know they have got it. The main points seem to be that it’s not clear what the problems are with the current arrangements. The army publishes when the range will be in use. They try to work within the set time and noise limits. There are few complaints, but we have the option to complain if they slip up.”

Another problem, Nicol said, was if noise covenants with the army were in place and the residents couldn’t complain, what is to stop [the army] from ramping up their activities to unacceptable levels?

“This letter came out of the blue, with no explanation as to why a covenant was the best option to allow the army to operate effectively but yet protect landowners’ interest. No public meeting was called by the council to introduce the whole idea. Poor public relations,” Nicol said.

The Selwyn District Council has responded to the concerns. Its environmental services manager Tim Harris said the West Melton Rifle Range is a long established and regionally significant infrastructure which the defence force wants to better protect going forward.

He said NZDF proposed the no-complaints covenant approach as its preferred option, which was supported by the council.

The District Plan Committee then endorsed this preferred option for further development and landowner engagement.

“There will be an opportunity for further public input during the submission period following the District Plans notification in the first half of 2020,” Harris said.