The Illawarra's only clay target shooting club has hit trouble at its new home, with a council report recommending a proposed shooting range be rejected on environmental grounds.
For members of the Illawarra Clay Target Club, which once honed the talents of dual Olympic gold medallist Michael Diamond, it is a significant blow.
The club began its search for new premises four years ago when the 180-member organisation learnt its home of more than three decades - a parcel of land at 389 Bong Bong Road - had been earmarked for development.
The club stayed at the Bong Bong Road site with a temporary lease, which has now expired, and then in 2010 bought a 26-hectare block of land next to Wongawilli Mine.
It soon lodged an application with Wollongong City Council seeking to include the clay target range in the site's allowable uses.
However, the club's hopes of securing final approval for the zoning change at Monday's council meeting have suffered a serious setback, with a staff-authored report recommending councillors reject the plans on environmental grounds.
The position has been supported by the council's independent escarpment reference group, which feared the development would damage the landscape.
Club president Fred Rapley declined to comment on the recommendation when contacted by the Mercury this week.
The council stance comes despite the proposal having received the all-clear from state planning, fire, road and water authorities, as well as several letters of support from the community and in-principle backing from NSW police.
But council staff said they had concerns over the potential for contamination on the site, believing that the use of lead pellets to hit the clay targets could affect soil, water, flora and fauna.
"The site is considered to be environmentally sensitive and there would be potential for pollution arising from the proposed shooting activities," the report said.
"If unmanaged, lead contamination may impact flora and fauna within the shooting range and downstream areas."
The club put forward several measures to mitigate any impacts, including, in an Australian first, using four-metre-high retractable "shot curtains", designed to catch lead pellets and pool them into a concentrated area for mechanical removal.
However, the council said the NSW Firearms Registry had advised that shot curtains, while widely used in Europe and the United States, were new to Australia and not yet a proven technology.
"Pioneering of new technologies, particularly the lead shot curtain, on such a sensitive site is considered to involve a number of risks," the council concluded.
The council staff conceded "it would be unlikely the club would find an alternative site in the Wollongong local government area" if the proposal was rejected.