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.

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