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National Rifle Association of New Zealand

History of NRANZ

An outline history of the National Rifle Association of New Zealand and the Trentham Rifle Ranges. This chronology of events is based on information researched and supplied in part, by Michael Kelly, Heritage Consultant and Russell Murray, Conservation Architect. Information was also sourced from the records and archives of the National Rifle Association of New Zealand.

1861 Governor Gore Browne presented a belt as a prize for the best shot in the country, to be decided at an annual competition for militia and volunteers. 885 competitors firing in their own districts throughout New Zealand on the same day. Three rounds each at 100, 200 and 300yds. The Champion Belt, Government Medal and prize money of £140 was won by Lieutenant Brighton of Auckland. NRANZ possesses the medal won by Brighton - which is possibly the oldest existing sporting trophy in the country.

Annual Rifle Championships conducted from 1861 to 1877 by the Government Volunteer Movement.
1869 No national competition. The Government could not agree to fund it.
1870 Annual national rifle championships held in Dunedin.
1871 Annual national rifle championships held in Auckland.
1872 Annual national rifle championships held in Christchurch.
1873 Annual national rifle championships held in Nelson.
1874 Annual national rifle championships held in Napier.
1875 Annual national rifle championships held in Thames.
1876 Annual national rifle championships held in Wanganui.
1877 Annual national rifle championships held in Nelson.
1878 New Zealand Rifle Association (NZRA) was formed.
1879 Annual national rifle championships held in Nelson.
1891 Captain Collins, Treasurer of the NZRA locates a possible site at Wallaceville in Upper Hutt for a permanent Rifle Range. Captain Collins is the main driver for establishing a 15 year lease at £20 per year with the owner Mr Alexander McCulloch. NZRA Executive estimates the cost of establishing a rifle range is £250.

Government purchases Polhill Gully Range for use of the local Wellington Volunteers.
1892 Lt. Colonel Joseph Sommerville, executive officer of the NZRA, finished laying out a range at McCulloch's farm. It was named Sommerville Range and used for the first time at the national championships on 11 March that year.

NZRA meets with the Hon. Mr Seddon Def Minister requesting assistance with the construction of a mess building at the Trentham rifle range. This assistance would be favourably considered provided the NZRA formed into a corporate body.
1893 Poor weather and a lack of wind flags at the national championships turned some NZRA members against the new range. South Island shooters also found the travel and Cook Straight crossing difficult. The NZRA only returned once to Trentham before 1900 - in 1895.
1894 Annual national rifle championships held in Christchurch.
1895 Annual national rifle championships held for second time at Trentham.
1896 Annual national rifle championships held in Oamaru.
1897 Annual national rifle championships held in Auckland.
1898 Annual national rifle championships held in Oamaru.
1899 Annual national rifle championships held in Wanganui.
1900 The NZRA was in a financially poor state due to having to establish a range at a new venue each year and no national competition was held. The government bought McCulloch's farm, about 486 hectares, for £4200.
1901 At the request of the NZRA, the Defence Force takes over the Association and renamed it the New Zealand Defence Rifle Association (NZDRA).

Annual Association Championships conducted at Wanganui.

The Defence Act 1886, is amended permitting Rifle Clubs being accepted as part of the defence forces of the colony.

A.P. Penton Colonel Commandant NZ Forces reports that in the past year a range at Trentham has been acquired by the Government for the use of the Wellington volunteers. It is an excellent range for both long range small arms and artillery practice.
1903 Trentham Rifle Ranges declared a Rifle Range Reserve for shooting purposes, with control and management vested in the Minister of Defence.
1905 Plans submitted by Lt. Col. Collins approved by government to expand Trentham ranges. A new 600yd 20 target range to the north. To the south a long range butts with 24 targets for 800, 900 and 1000yds only. A total of 90 targets available able to cater to 900 men shooting together.
1906 The initial construction of the long range butts and firing points to the south are completed. This range is named after the Right Hon. The Premier Seddon.
1907 Arthur Ballinger won the championship belt for the third time. It entitled him to keep it and he donated it back to the Association to be used as the main competition prize in perpetuity.
By 1909 Collins Range was completed.
1911 Long Range firing points 800, 900 and 1000yds added to Sommerville Range.
1914 The outbreak of World War 1 saw considerable land at Trentham turned over to a mobilisation camp, which later became Trentham Military Camp. The Army took over the ranges for the duration of the war.
1919 The Defence Rifle Association was reactivated.
1923 The National Rifle Association was formed, to differentiate members' interests from that of the Defence Forces.
c.1940 During the early part of World War II, Sommerville, Seddon and Collins Ranges had new mantlets and markers' galleries built in reinforced concrete. The target hoists provided were of an earlier 20th century standard design - the Hythe pattern target frame. Much use of the revamped ranges was made by local trainees and marines from the United States.
1951 The NRANZ was granted a full five-year lease (of Seddon Range) for the first time. The Army retreated to Sommerville and Collins ranges to conduct its training.

A safety issue with the height of the hills behind the range arises from a 1945 revised range safety regulation.
1957 An extension to the NRA's lease was granted.
1962 A further five year lease was granted to the NRANZ for Seddon Range.
1964 The safety of the range with regard to bullets flying over the hills behind the range was raised again. This time a bullet catcher was ordered to be built for Sommerville Range.
1966 The bullet catcher for Sommerville Range was constructed largely from spoil from the General Motors construction site.
1968 A 10-year lease with a possible five year renewal was signed by the NRA and Defence.

By this time firing on Collins Range had ceased due to safety reasons and this partly prompted its eventual abandonment.
1970 The Heretaunga Pistol Club signed a 10-year lease to use the area behind the gallery at Collins Range for a short range facility. It remains an occupant.
By 1974 The Trentham Camp Golf Course was established, using Collins Range floor and, later, part of Sommerville Range floor (the western half).
1975 A National Shooting Centre at Trentham was promoted by the NRA.
1976 The Minister of Defence decided that the ranges should stay in Defence hands and that the Army and NRA should jointly use them.
Early 1980s The Army built a new road (Messines Road) between the camp and ranges, and built new accommodation, taking land previously occupied by Sommerville Range and reducing its length considerably.
1984 With the loss of Sommerville's full length and to ensure it can continue to run its championships, the NRA pushed to have Seddon Range extended to 50 targets from 25. The Army agreed and major works were required including new target frames, bullet catcher, an extended gallery and firing mounds, drainage and a new road. Work did not finally finish until 1988.
1984 NRA signs 12 year License to occupy Seddon Range.

Cost of developing 50 Target Seddon Range was borne 50/50 by NRA and NZDF. $51,000 was paid to the government as the NRA share of the range development. In addition to this cost the NRA designed, built, galvanised and erected 50 new target carriers as cost of $800 per mechanism.
2000 The Trentham Ranges closed for almost two years for safety reasons. Sommerville has yet to reopen.
2002 NRA shows NZDF that based on bullet strike data recorded and analysed, NRA had developed a Range Danger Area (RDA) for Seddon Range that fitted within the range reserve and conformed to JSP403, also that the level of risk associated with the Cone of Fire (COF) was acceptable, as was the methodology used in developing it.
2008 Additional works by NRA required in re-engineering the Seddon Range bullet stop and mantlet in order to comply with JSP403 is completed. A direct cost to NRA members of $212,090 which does not include cost of voluntary labour supplied by members.
2011 NRA signs a new 30-year Licence with NZDF for use of the Seddon Range, after prolonged negotiations.
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