Another busy year has been and gone with lots of good things being achieved by a very strong, conducive and proactive committee! I am pleased to say that the infighting that plagued the Branch a couple of years back is nowhere to be seen. The Committee is working like a well oiled machine, pushing forward and professionalising the Branch, ensuring all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed.
When I became President two years ago, the Branch was in desperate need of a vision, it lacked direction and leadership; Corporate Governance was all over the place and the 'old boys club' was in full swing! Now with the help of a fantastic Committee, the Branch is kicking some real goals and we are moving forward in the right direction. The Committee has been sorting out Corporate Governance and Policy to ensure that we bring our Branch up to date and to be recognised by other Branches as something to aspire to. I am pleased to report that we have appointed Pam Reeves as our Executive Officer who has been working tirelessly with the Committee in order to sort out all these issues.
With regard to shooting ranges, I am excited to announce that after a long and drawn out process lasting over three years (and a somewhat personal mission), SSAA Sydney has signed an agreement that will allow our members back onsite at ANZAC Range, Malabar. It was a fantastic feeling to achieve this given that many had given up on us returning, including some Politicians who early on in the piece told us “you may as well give up on ANZAC”. What became apparent in this process was the need for us to remain friendly with all shooting groups. There is a lot of bad blood between different areas of the shooting community and we all need to band together. SSAA Sydney has a new found friendship with the NSW Rifle Association, we have a common goal of growing our sport and ensuring the ANZAC site is utilised as best as possible. We are still sorting out the finer points for our return to ANZAC, however we envisage that we will be shooting there within the next month.
It is disappointing to advise that we no longer have access to Hurstville small bore range and this is as a result of a couple of antisocial members not doing the right thing. We must remember that shooting facilities are very few and far between and as such we must act in the best interests of the Association when we present to a range. We must remember that our actions may prejudice or directly impact on the other 30,000 plus members of our Branch.
We looked at presentations last year on the financial position of the Branch as well as the potential placement of new facilities. What this showed is that SSAA Sydney alone would be hard pressed to spend anymore than about $4,000,000 without major risk on a new range at that point in time. The Branch with the assistance of Richard Drozdowski (SSAA NSW resident range planning expert) have looked at 2 potential sites over the last year being one at Kurnell and the other at Maddens Plains. However, for a variety of reasons they were both not suitable. We will keep looking at suitable sites and we are also utilising SSAA Pty Ltd to do this. It is not easy, especially with the price of land in Sydney, however I would hope that by the expiration of my term as President we are breaking soil!
The Branch Finances are stronger than they have ever been before. The Branch is bank rolling large amounts of cash assets as well we are seeing strong increases in profit from our activities as reported in the financial statements. The Branch investments are paying off with negotiated returns to the Branch from SSAA Pty Ltd. This is all good news as we need all we can to purchase additional facilities.
Over the past year, I have fielded countless phone calls from members who want the SSAA to be more Politically motivated on issues that hinder and affect law abiding shooters; I for a long time have been trying to change the entrenched culture of the Association where it tends to let itself down by not being Politically proactive. I have been saying that we need to be working with anyone who wants to work with us. It is pleasing to note that SSAA NSW shares this philosophy.
One item that the Sydney Committee strongly believes needs to change is the requirement for our members to do compulsory attendances at ranges to keep their licences. This year we took an agenda item to the SSAA NSW AGM asking the State Branches to come to a formal position on this issue. After speaking to this item, it was first met with applause, but no decisions were made on the day as some other Branches were more concerned with their Balance Sheets than upholding the SSAA Constitution which in section 4.11 it states that: the aims, objects and purposes of the Branch are to oppose all aspects of firearms or firearms use legislation that is considered ineffective in reducing crime and/or violence, and as representing undue restrictions on honest firearms owners, both members and non-members. The issue will be further discussed between Branches later this year.
With 60% of the State membership residing in Sydney Branch, it is only fair that we keep fighting to be heard. We will also continue to lobby for the removal of other useless Legislation like the Ammunition Bill. SSAA Sydney is also looking at issues such as 'sound moderators' and has a plan we are working on to have these for use by law abiding firearms owners. At the SSAA NSW AGM, it was announced that they too have plans to look at ways of getting sound moderators for use by licensed shooters and SSAA Sydney hopes to work with SSAA NSW on this. If we were permitted the use of Sound Moderators at our ranges, some of the issues regarding noise would become irrelevant.
This past year we held another volunteer function to recognise the efforts our volunteers that was well attended by our Branch volunteers and their partners. We really value the input our volunteers have and hope to be able to do more to recognise the part they play in our Association. It is important that our members realise that most of our ranges are staffed by volunteers and without them our ranges stop working!
I would like to thank the SSAA Sydney Branch Committee for all their efforts with a special thanks to Nick Diakos who is retiring from the Committee after close to 10 years service. I would also like to thank all our Range Managers and Staff for their assistance over the past year and we all look forward to working with you all over the coming year...