Clutha mayor, gun clubs deny racist subculture

Bryan Cadogan.
Bryan Cadogan.
South Otago community leaders have moved to deny claims of a racist subculture in the region, following allegations concerning the Bruce Rifle Club, of which alleged mosque terror gunman Brenton Tarrant was a member.

Yesterday, the rifle club near Milburn closed its doors indefinitely, after it emerged former soldier Peter Breidahl had raised concerns with police about the behaviour of some members after visiting in late 2017.

Police are believed to be investigating claims by Mr Breidahl that he saw club members with the Confederate flag, a symbol of white nationalism, and talking with ''strong feelings'' about the right to carry arms, as well as complaining New Zealand's relaxed stance on refugees would lead to terror attacks.

Club vice-president Scott Williams has strenuously denied the allegations, and South Otago community leaders contacted by the Otago Daily Times yesterday also denied claims a racist subculture existed in the area.

Mr Williams said in the wake of Friday's terror attack: "We have closed the rifle range for the foreseeable future."

Asked if the range would ever reopen, he said: "We don't know at this stage".

He was also unsure if the club would remain going.

He said club members were dealing with grief over what had happened.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said racist ideologies had ''no place'' in South Otago's communities.

''These despicable acts have no place in our community, nor the society we live in.

''In our lifetime, we've seen a maturing of tolerance and a growing understanding of the imperative for diversity.''

Clutha-Taieri area police response manager Senior Sergeant Stan Leishman said they were not aware of issues over racial intolerance.

''We don't have a problem with hate crime in Clutha. The area has had an increasingly diverse mix of race and culture for more than 30 years, largely due to the needs of local employers.''

He encouraged anyone witnessing or experiencing hate crime locally to contact police.

Neighbouring gun clubs were also vocal in their condemnation of the attack, and denied the existence of racist views within the shooting community.

Balclutha Smallbore Rifle Shooting Club secretary Murray Beck said he and fellow members were ''shocked'' to learn of Tarrant's links to the region.

''Racism just isn't a part of our culture down here, among club members or the wider community. But as a rural community you're always going to have guns, the majority of which are used sensibly and legitimately.''

He estimated ''two-thirds'' of Balclutha residents, and ''all farmers'' owned firearms, and said those in the recreational shooting community were concerned a ''kneejerk'' reaction to gun control might result following the attack.

It was revealed after Friday's attack that Brenton Tarrant was a member of the Bruce Rifle Club, and practised shooting an AR-15 and a hunting rifle at its range near Milburn.

Mr Williams said members had been encouraged to approach police and give an individual statement if they felt they were able to offer "any insight into Brenton".

"From the people we have spoken to in the club membership in the club committee there was no indication of anything like this.

"Even looking back now and I guess I am speaking kind of personally here, I've been wracking my brains trying to think back to things that could have been construed as a warning sign.

"But they just weren't there."

"There was no idea this was going to happen, no indication."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has signalled gun laws will be ''strengthened'' in the wake of Friday's events.

''Something obviously needs to be done about semi-automatic weapons like the one used. I just hope there isn't a kneejerk reaction with people going overboard elsewhere,'' Mr Beck said.

He expressed surprise over the closure of the Bruce club.

''I thought possibly they'd need to take a closer look at things, but didn't expect that. We've got six smallbore clubs in the area, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens.''

Mr Cadogan issued a rallying call to South Otago residents concerned about public opinion.

''Let's not focus on the hate but show and share our love and support at this time for those directly affected. We and all New Zealand can stand as one, and ensure we're not defined by this most heinous of actions.''

richard.davison@odt.co.nz

Comments

The original story was about Breidal, Tarrant and the Gun Club. When did this extend to "The Region" and who has alleged 'racist sub culture'?

No racist sub-culture? Get your heads out of the sand.

What is a sub culture? Culture deviant from the main.
The epithet cannot be applied to Community.

 

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