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Playtime . . . Oamaru Hardballers Airsoft Club president Keegan Tipene at the club's field, which is being developed for the growing sport. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

“It’s not dangerous, but it hurts enough to want to not get hit.”

That is how Keegan Tipene describes getting shot with an airsoft pellet.

Tipene is president of the Oamaru Hardballers Airsoft Club, which was established in July.

Airsoft is a competitive team shooting sport, in which participants eliminate opposing players with biodegradable pellets, shot by airsoft guns.

The sport, which began in Japan in the 1980s, is becoming more popular in New Zealand, and began locally after Tipene visited a field in Christchurch. He decided to gauge interest in Oamaru, and now the club has 20 members and is affiliated with Airsoft New Zealand.

There are various modes of play, but, as a general rule, once you are hit you are out of the game until you return to your base, similar to paintball, Tipene said.

The gas or electric-powered guns, which shoot accurately up to about 30m, fire biodegradable pellets, and competitors wear protective gear, especially around the face.

“Once you start hearing [the pellets] go flying past you switch on,” he said.

“It takes tactics and teamwork to win, as well as being used to your weapon.

“You need a good use of your surroundings, and communication.”

The Oamaru club uses a 2.4ha section in Alma as a base and club members have been spending time constructing bunkers and obstacles on the field.

“We are pretty lucky to have the space,” Tipene said.

“Everyone is into it, which is good – it keeps us on track.

“Once we get properly up and running it will be a good thing for the community.”

New members are welcome, but they must be 18 years old or over. People aged 16 and 17 could also join if they held a firearms licence.

Tipene hoped to get regular games running over summer.

For more information, visit the club’s Facebook page.