Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993
This article is based on information supplied by Mr Jim Johansen and Mrs Doris Fitz-Herbert. They wrote two articles which appeared in the Paeroa Gazette in February 1991.
A rifle range reserve was set aside in the early days of Paeroa and gun clubs formed. Shooting activities and gun clubs throughout New Zealand were in recess during the Second World War but early in 1946 Ben Gwilliam and Jim Johansen, both keen Paeroa riflemen, decided to take steps to reorganize the Paeroa Defence Rifle Club.
The Minister of Defence was written to asking for the supply of ammunition. The initial request was refused but further letters where written and eventually a reply was received stating the Military Stores at Hopuhopu had been instructed to issue ammunition. Following this success Ben and Jim advertised a general meeting for the purpose of re-forming the club. The meeting was very well attended and the club was re-established. Working bees were held at the rifle range at Komata to repair the butts, renew target frames and build a footbridge over the Komata Stream. All was ready and shooting commenced over the summer of 1946-47.
With the approach of the winter of 1947 a branch of the Club known as "The Miniature Branch, Paeroa Defence Rifle Club" was formed and permission was obtained to use the Army Drill Hall for range shooting. Rifles of .22 calibre were used. New target rifles became available and the club purchased two or three and some members bought their own.
After some years of operation the club elected a sub-committee to take over the running of the Miniature Branch. This consisted of the president and secretary of the Defence Rifle Club with the balance of the committee coming from Miniature Club members. Eventually the assets of the Miniature Branch and the control of the Branch were passed over to this committee to run miniature shooting and the name changed to Paeroa Smallbore Rifle Club.
In the 1950's and 1960's membership of the Defence Rifle Club fluctuated between 60 and 80 while the Miniature Branch had an average of about 60.
When the Drill Hall was required by the Army the Smallbore Rifle Club obtained the use of the rugby training shed on Friday nights. As the floor was covered in sawdust, which had been wetted so as to lay the dust for rugby training it could be quite damp under foot. A "carpet" of scrim was laid to catch the empty shells and over this several boards about 7ft by 4ft were laid for members to lie on, and these were put down and taken up each Friday and stored in a cupboard.
In 1962 the idea was mooted to build a clubroom at the side of the shed and this was completed in 1964, making the evening shoots much more comfortable for members. In the same year it was decided to hold an open championship. This was called the Thames Valley Open Championship and, thanks to the local businesses who donated prizes for a few years, the championship prospered and is still held every year.
The Thames Valley Championships have progressed considerably from small beginnings and are now part of the Auckland Provincial Championships which are held over six various shoots during the shooting season, in winter. The Championship Shield was donated by J T Davy, a former Paeroa jeweller, and the runner-up and B, C and D Grade Trophies by Bill and Doris Fitz-Herbert.