Fear as shooters turn Canterbury riverbed 'into a war zone'

A North Canterbury riverbed has been turned into a "war zone" by shooters using high-powered, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, a nearby resident says.

The shooters – a group of caucasian men, many of them from Christchurch, and mainly aged in their 20s and 30s – haven't stopped their target practice on the Okuku River bed, near Rangiora, despite multiple complaints to police over a period of months. They even insensitively had a shoot on the afternoon of march 22nd.

"Sometimes it's like a war zone," one says, adding: "Something needs to be done – someone will be killed.

The other, a resident of more than 10 years, says that after the Christchurch attack the incredibly loud sound of fast, repetitive gunfire – "that doong-doong-doong" – had sent their fearful daughter under her bed, to hide. "I certainly wouldn't let the kids go down there."

Newsroom's questions to police about the incidents are being treated as an Official Information Act request. That's because, we're told, key police contacts weren't immediately aware of the complaints and a quick search of their systems by communications staff drew a blank

We asked if police are re-opening historic inquiries into the illegal use of firearms, as a result of the Christchurch terror attack. Police spokeswoman Rachel Purdom says she was not aware of any plans to do so. "Certainly if new information was received about a particular matter we would re-look at it, however."

The Okuku shooters are accused of spraying bullets and shotgun pellets into piles of gravel on the riverbed, and makeshift targets, during the day at weekends and sometimes after dark, using spotlights from utility vehicles. Some bullets are slamming into banks on the other side of the river, at the edge of people's properties.The frequency of the target practice has increased over the past two years, as more people have moved to the area. It has intensified since the March 15 terrorist attacks

An Okuku resident says they were thrown from their horse when the shooting started on the afternoon of March 22, during what was meant to be a national two minutes' silence. "For them to shoot at that time ... it was obvious – it was get stuffed, the whole lot of you."

The other nearby resident had gone outside for a moment of quiet reflection and heard the "defiant" gunfire, in the face of more restrictive gun ownership laws. "It could be a coincidence, but it didn't sit so well with me to suddenly hear that."

Multiple complaints have been made to various authorities – to police, the district and regional councils, to the Department of Conservation. The police have told the complainant that cars have been sent to the area. But the shooters keep coming back. "Everyone keeps passing the buck," the resident says

After a complaint, police are able to check if shooters have the relevant licence, that their firearm is legal, and if they have permission to shoot on the land. Under the Arms Act people can be charged with various offences, including discharging a firearm near a house or in a public place, or carelessly using a firearm. Circumstances dictate whether police move people on or lay charges.

The Okuku residents say that, living rurally, they expect to hear the odd gunshot. But the riverbed is a public area, they say, and the shooters continue firing despite being near people, animals, and properties. "There's a real cavalier attitude," one resident says

The status of the land they're using is unclear.

Land Information New Zealand's deputy chief executive of Crown property Jerome Sheppard confirms it is responsible for parts of the Okuku River. But he says other sections of the river "may well be the responsibility of the adjoining land owner". (Newsroom has viewed property documents identifying the owner of the adjoining land, but we won't name them before we've managed to make contact and given them the chance to comment.)

Sheppard says: "We have checked our records and contacted our contractor Colliers but neither of us have any records of complaints regarding an illegal shooting range."

An executive member of a nearby gun club says he hasn't heard of the Okuku being used for target practice, but told Newsroom he couldn't be quoted. Council of Licensed Firearms Owners vice chairman Michael Dowling says he's not aware of the specific area or the individuals involved

Environment Canterbury zone lead of North Canterbury Marco Cataloni confirms it received a complaint on Saturday, March 23, about people shooting guns on the Okuku River. A response sent two days later acknowledged their concerns, he says. The response also explained where its jurisdiction over the Okuku ends, and, if beyond its remit, referred the person to the Waimakariri District Council and/or the Department of Conservation.

Waimakariri District Council's communications manager Alistair Gray says its customer service team isn't aware of any complaints relating to shooting near the Okuku riverbed.

'SOMEONE WILL BE KILLED'

An Okuku resident says the Christchurch terror attack changed the way they viewed the regular riverbed shoot-'em-ups near their property. A man they confronted six months ago was Australian. "I Googled him but it wasn't the same guy," they say, relieved.

But they still wonder why the group of men are shooting high-powered rifles in an area well-used by the public. "What are they practising for?"

Something needs to be done, they say – whether the group's intentions are nefarious or not

"This is an area where families go and swim in river holes," one Okuku resident says, before adding: "Well, we used to."

The other resident warns: "Because of the motorbikes that are coming up the river, and the kids coming up on their ponies, and things like that, someone will be killed."

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Comment by cheeki kea on April 28, 2019 at 2:15am

This week on the news we hear that 11 guns were brought back by a police station, but unsurprisingly they all got stolen and there whereabouts is unknown. That's the problem of great haste, no consideration for logistics. -which should at least include a place at the station to Store them. One idea might be a safe maybe. (we hear the thief has been found, but not the guns)

Comment by Mrs. Tif Morgan on April 26, 2019 at 11:18am

 I found this story on the net, its not in youtube? Hmmm?

Comment by Sweettina2 on April 25, 2019 at 5:50pm

Yep, gun grab. I'm telling y'all, patriots are pissed off and standing up. Could be they're making their stand. Patriots in Mexico are active at the border, daily, they're going through hell.

Being careful what I say, they're moving. We aren't rolling over for these invaders trying to bust through our borders with violence! Enough! Patriots know exactly what time it is. Just defending our country and Constitution. 

Comment by the mighty bull on April 24, 2019 at 11:11pm

I think it’s time for everyone from the north and south nz tribes to get together and have a Korero about what is going on with our country and what the future will hold for our people and everyone in the country because we have all been persecuted for shyt we never done from the pakeha but we always hear there call in there darkest hours. Ready willing and Abel to assist.

Comment by Raz Putin on April 24, 2019 at 10:41pm

Gun grab fail now there is some kind of justice for you.

Good on them (Pakeha tribe) it seems TPTB in NZ needed a good wake up call.

Tyranny is tyranny by any all other names.

In solidarity.

Comment by cheeki kea on April 24, 2019 at 9:16pm

The pakeha tribe are sending a loud clear message to the govt. and giving them the finger, as deserved. They can shoot up the environment for the next 6 months before gun buy back, if they even choose to sell, or become criminals then, or sell the guns to gangs, whose illegal guns are Not part of the buy back plan. What a bizarre situation. 

Comment by Chris of the family Masters on April 24, 2019 at 8:14pm

'What they are practising for?' To defend their families from corporate orders takers, I'd say.

Comment by cheeki kea on April 24, 2019 at 7:33pm

Gun Grab Fail.

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