Trentham, New Zealand

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The Heretaunga Pistol Club is located within Trentham Rifle Range Reserve, Trentham, Upper Hutt.

The Trentham Rifle Range Reserve is Crown land that is administered by the New Zealand Defence Force and within the Reserve there are 5 ranges. They are the Seddon Range that is a 1000 yard rifle range, the Sommerville Range that is a 300 meter rifle range,  the Allen Range that is a 50 meter range, a Demolition Range and the Collins range. The Collins range is no longer an active range with most of the range area occupied by the Golf Course. Within the area of the Collins Range that was formerly used as the Butts the Club has  an area that is Licensed from the Crown, it is here that the Club has developed its range complex.

The Heretaunga range complex consists of three 25 meter ranges, a 50 meter range that is currently closed for development, a 100 meter range that is certified for center fire rifle as well as shotgun and pistol shooting, and a shotgun aerial clay range. The Club's Club Rooms are located in an area of the Trentham Rifle Range Reserve known as 'The Shooters Village'.

The following is a short history of the Trentham Rifle Range Reserve:

 The Rifle Association’s involvement with Trentham dated back to the 11th of March 1892 when Mrs Reeves, wife of the Minister for Education, fired the shot that opened the Association’s first “permanent” range. The Hon Mr Reeves congratulated the Association on the excellent range they had secured and said that Government had the good of the Association at heart as he wished them and the Volunteers every success.

 That first competition at Trentham, the 31st Annual Meeting of the NZ Rifle Association, was due in no small part to the efforts of the Chairman of the Association, Joe Sommerville, who held the rank of Major in the Volunteers. Joe was an energetic advocate for building a permanent venue for National Championships and for the establishment of a proper Headquarters for the Rifle Association.  This new range was to replace the various temporary venues used previously for national Championships. His involvement was such that the Association honored him by naming the range “The Sommerville Range”

 The local paper reported that range had been built by subscriptions, and that donations amounting to £203.10 were received “from the Citizens of Wellington and Outlying Districts for the purpose of forming the New Rifle Range.” The land on which the range was built was owned by Mr McCulloch and was known locally as “McCulloch’s Farm” or “McCulloch’s Swamp”

 The citizens and Burgers of Wellington turned out to witness the grand opening. The Mayor of Wellington, Mr H.D. Bell, congratulated the Association on establishing a permanent range so near to the Capital and said; “he hoped the Bisley of New Zealand would prove as successful as that of the Old Country.” The Defence Minister, Hon Mr Seddon, and other Members of the House attended and tried their skill at the revolver target.

 Mr Seddon offered, on behalf of the Government “to give a gold medal for the champion each year” and promised “to assist the Association as far as possible.” The Hon The Premier addressed the volunteers, urging upon them “the necessity of becoming proficient in the use of the rifle.” He was of the opinion that “the Association had acted wisely in establishing a permanent range and he hoped the day was not too far distant when buildings would be erected on the range for the use of volunteers.”

 The Championships were held at Trentham again in 1893, at which time a motion was passed that required “the Championships be held alternatively in the North and South Islands.” Trentham was the venue in 1895, after which the championships were held at various centers.

 In 1900 a difficult situation faced the Government. The South African war had absorbed the small Army and reinforcements with skill at arms were very short. The Government intended to encourage the formation of Volunteers and Rifle Clubs and set aside a fund for the purpose of purchasing and developing land for rifle ranges. This was to provide a body of men who were skilled at arms and who could be called on as necessary.

 On the 10th of October 1900 Mr Field (MP for Otaki) asked the Minister of Defence “if the Government will take steps to acquire the Rifle Range at Silverstream” […..] “it was in the centre of the Hutt Valley and could be used by the Volunteer Corps and Rifle Clubs in the District.”  

 Ten days later (20th October 1900) Government purchased the Range. The area was approximately 1,266 acres and stretched from the railway line to near the crest of the hills. It encompassed land that is now controlled by Corrections and on which the MOW, CIT, MOT, and other Government Agencies later built.

 At the 1901 meeting Joe Sommerville reported to the Association; “[that] the Government has now purchased Trentham and in future all meetings will be held there. The range is essentially fitted for rifle shooting at ranges up to 3000 yards: It is bounded by the railway line, and within an hours run from Wellington”

 In November 1903 Governor Ranfurly defined the status of the range under a notice in the NZ Gazette which confirmed that “the Trentham Rifle Range Reserve has been acquired by his Majesty as a public reserve for the purposes of a rifle range.”

 Then, using the powers of the ‘Public Reserve Act 1881’ the Governor approved “that the Right Honorable the Minister of Defence shall have the control and management of the said reserve.”

 Defining the range as a Class 11 Reserve, (Rifle Range) rather than a Military Purpose Reserve, clearly indicated its intended use and purpose.  But Reserves of Class 11 (which included reserves for Prisons, Railways, Public Buildings, etc) could be easily interchanged, and much of the original land has since been diverted for other purposes. Reserves for Military Purposes required a special Act to change their use.

 About this time the Rifle Association was taken over by Government and became an element of the Defence forces, a situation that may have blurred the relationship between recreational target shooters and Army.

 NZ shooting Championships were held at Trentham for the next 14 years and with Defence funding the range and associated camping grounds were gradually improved. During this period the Sommerville Range was extended to 1000 yards and the Seddon Range was built. Little else was done although the Army apparently employed a caretaker to maintain the range.

 The next major development at Trentham was brought about by the outbreak of WW1 and in his book “Historic Trentham” Will Lawton describes the Trentham Ranges at that time. “Trentham, where the Dominion Rifle Association had its fine rifle-ranges was in view [for a training camp] all the time” [and] “The only buildings were those connected with the rifle range”

 Within a week of the declaration of war (August 4th 1914) camps were established in the major cities but it took two months before recruits and camp equipment arrived at Trentham, and more than 7 months before the Public Works Dept commenced building huts.

 Army has maintained a base at Trentham since that time and has converted some of the ranges, including a part of the original Sommerville Range, from their original purpose to “Military Purposes”.

 The Rifle Ranges at Trentham are an important part of the history of this country, a functioning memorial to those who trained there before embarking to protect our freedoms. Many New Zealanders would consider it a national disgrace if the ranges could not continue as they have done so for the past 109 years.


Researched by John Howat

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