Members of the Vipassana Meditation Center in Auckland, New Zealand, have been meditating among the peaceful, quiet valleys of Kaukapakapa for years. But now a gun range is about to open next door.
The meditation center lies in the heart of Auckland countryside. The meditation centre exists in peaceful harmony with the neighbouring community, the rolling green fields, the sheep, and the horses. More than 1,500 meditators annually attend the meditation centre, taking the opportunity to enjoy some peace and silence away from work.
“This is a very beautiful valley and extremely quiet. It offers a pristine and tranquil environment for our students,” said head meditation teacher Ross Reynolds said. But he’s concerned about a new gun club being built in the area. Raymon O’Brien and his wife Victoria Pichler plan to open the largest shooting facility in the southern hemisphere just two valleys away. “We don’t know how it will affect us,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds hopes that the guns will not interfere with the meditation retreat. But neighbours say that’s wishful thinking.
“We can hear [the meditation centre’s] bell as they start meditation classes. So they will certainly be able to hear any gun fire,” said Lesley Rowntree, who lives next door to where the new gun club will be built.
Neighbours moved to the area for the peacefulness of the valleys. Now they worry the gun club will ruin the tranquility. “The thing we appreciate most is the peace and quiet,” said Rowntree. “We are willing to travel long distances every day for work so long as we have our sanctuary to return to.”
Many families in the area are concerned that the gun club will not be safe for their children.
Raymond O’Brien says that though his gun club may disrupt the peace, there is demand for such a facility in the area. “There is a demand for a facility like this – it’s a growing sport and if we want to be competitive in it we need a facility that will foster training and growth.”
O’Brien says that the reason he was drawn to the area was the same reason the meditation centre and the families were drawn there: the peacefulness of the place. And he is defending his decision. “This land has pine forest on two sides and steep terrain which would be unlikely to be built on. It’s designed so it would be as far away as possible from the neighbours and from the road.”
Those living in the area are near unanimously opposed to the idea. But they say they have had no opportunity to voice their concerns. The gun club has been granted rights to the land against their wishes, they say.
Auckland Council’s manager Ian Dobson told us that outdoor ranges like this are classified as recreational and only require a certificate of compliance. A certificate of compliance does not take into account the affect an organisation or development will have on he neighbourhood. As such, the neighbours have little to no means to oppose the club.
Around New Zealand, and in many parts of the world, neighbours are increasing pressure on gun clubs in an attempt to conserve the peace of their homes. But the law is firmly on the side of the clubs.
Is enough being done to preserve the land and to maintain peace and quiet for people living in areas like Auckland? Leave a comment.