Prospering under pressure
Metropolitan Field & Game is clinging to the urban fringe and prospering but its future growth may hinge on a move north to the rolling hills near Kilmore.
It’s close to Christmas and the prospect of a prize ham has the Metropolitan ground buzzing.
President Luigi Colbertaldo is in one of the first squads and it’s not long before the president-come-trap mechanic is called away. Most days, he says, things run smoothly but a couple of troublesome traps persist in breaking targets. “I think today someone is cursing me,” he laughs.
Through it all, he keeps smiling, as do the squad members waiting at the stands who use the delay to poke fun and have a laugh.
Luigi used to shoot down the line (Metro is based at the Metropolitan Clay Target Club in Epping and has 15 shoot days a year) but switched to Field & Game nine years ago. “A few years later we were struggling to fill the president’s role so I put my hand up,” he said.
Metropolitan has more than 700 members but faces the same issues as many smaller branches, where leadership and the hands-on work to set up and run shoot days falls to a few dedicated volunteers.
John Caven, conservation officer and long-time member of Metropolitan, said the branch has put in place a succession plan to develop younger members and bring the next generation of leaders to the fore. “I can see why it is daunting for people; it is the same whether it’s a shooting club or a football or netball club,” he said. “We are working to build their skills and confidence over a couple of years.”
A strength is the large representation from the Italian and Greek communities, which Luigi said was one of the man drivers in forming the branch. “Simulated Field is more attractive to our membership because they are hunters and in the off season they want targets that simulate hunting,” he said. Another issue for Metro is the
>> ground itself: the permit is held by the Melbourne Clay Target Club and despite drawing much larger shoot numbers, the Field & Game branch has little control.
The land itself is in a conservation zone and the nearby bypass provides a handy buffer from encroaching urban development. By shooting in from the perimeter, 75 or 100 target shoots are achievable but more land would be an asset and they aren’t making any more in Epping.
“Our land is like a handkerchief, it is very hard to work with, but I have to change the targets all the time so I do what I can,” Luigi said. “I don’t know how long we’re going to be here, it is hard to find other land, but it would be good to have more.”
When brothers Bert and Ted Lobley led the push to start a Field & Game branch in 1992 the two organisations worked hand in glove, and for a time Bert was president of both.
That has changed over the years and Metro has an eye on a future where they can shape their own destiny. “Last year we had three days taken off us but in 2018 we are back to 15 shoot days,” John said. “I don’t know how long our tenure will be here, we are looking at the Field & Game property at Willowmavin as a possibility for the future.”
In the interim, Metro is getting on with things.
Recently they raised $5500 for the Peace of Mind Foundation, which provides support to brain cancer patients and their families.
The urban branch also has a long history of conservation work with more than 200 nest boxes at Plenty Gorge, Mill Park Lake and the Tanunda Wetlands.
The nest boxes are used by ducks and native parrots but increasingly over the past decade nesting success has been impacted by Indian mynas. “They bully their way into our nest boxes and will build their filthy nests on top of the eggs already there, I’ve seen them kick ducks out and move in within an hour,” John said.
For two years, he’s been working on a scheme to remove the pest utilising FGA members with air rifles. “We are working with Parks Victoria to develop a targeted eradication program to protect and improve the breeding of our Australian native birds,” he said.
The project gained momentum six months ago when Member for Yan Yean, Danielle Green, became involved. “We are back in negotiations and once the science is approved we hope to have it running in 2018,” John said.