186 farms in Defence’s sights – Minister’s request for expediency ignored

Yesterday, CONTACT published a piece about how ‘dozens’ of farmers with property adjoining Defence training areas near Rockhampton and Townsville received notice their land may be taken by compulsory acquisition.

That same story also reported that Minister for Defence Marise Payne, in a statement published yesterday, said, in her opening line, “The Department of Defence will now complete its analysis of proposed land acquisition … within four weeks”.

Today, a Defence spokesman told CONTACT that, Defence will … “propose any required expansion areas for Government consideration in the second half of 2017” – a minimum of 26 weeks away.

While the same statement from Defence today said “Defence will only propose the acquisition of land … if it is absolutely necessary to meet military training requirements” – it also confirmed that 186 landowners, leaseholders and community members have been consulted about the expansion of the Townsville Field Training Area and Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

The Defence spokesman’s statement to CONTACT today reads in full…

On 6 May 2016, Australia and Singapore announced a new package of bilateral cooperation initiatives to advance the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). A key initiative under the CSP is increased access by the Singaporean Armed Forces to Australian military training areas. The military training and training area development initiative includes a 25-year period for increased training area access, and investment by the Singapore Government in expanding and enhancing Australia’s military training areas. The investment covers new facilities and infrastructure required to enhance the Townsville Field Training Area and Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian and Singapore governments states that priority will be given to Australian commercial enterprises in the locality of the training areas, in support of both the development and the ongoing training phases, boosting regional jobs and growth. Up to $2.25 billion will be spent in the Townsville and Rockhampton regions from 2016 to 2026, with approximately $1  billion expected to be spent in each region and the balance on a mid-term refresh.

The Australian Government’s work to date on the expansion of the  Townsville Field Training Area and  Shoalwater Bay Training Area reflects initial planning only, and is subject to further consideration and planning activities. This includes a Social and Economic Impact Assessment, which is being conducted by KPMG, and in consultation with landholders, leaseholders and community members. All affected stakeholders will have an opportunity to  provide  input into the assessment.

To date, 78 consultations with 186 landowners, leaseholders and community members have been held, and a second round of consultations is planned for early 2017. Defence takes the concerns of the local community seriously and will consider the views and feedback provided.

Defence will conduct a master planning activity in 2017 and will propose any required expansion areas for Government consideration in the second half of 2017. Defence will only propose the acquisition of land to Government if it is absolutely necessary to meet military training requirements.

 

FILE PHOTO CAPTIONSingapore Army soldiers demonstrate urban assault techniques at the Shoalwater Bay training area. Photo by Corporal David Cotton.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote this piece with some editorial glee in noting Defence’s contradiction of the Minister’s statement of yesterday, which was probably caused by the fact that today’s statement was prepared and cleared last week (I asked for comment on 14 January), then held for release until the minister spoke, but without properly cross referencing what the Minister said (because if they did properly cross reference the statements, the contradiction stands – which is an even bigger story).

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

One thought on “186 farms in Defence’s sights – Minister’s request for expediency ignored

  • 01/02/2017 at 8:10 pm
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    but do they really need to take away more farming land? or with the money they talking of spending couldnt they find a heap of “mungrel’ country and start up a new training area some where else??

    Reply

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