Defence force in discussion with property owners
DISCUSSIONS have begun between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Central Queensland property owners over the acquisition of land to expand Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
Minister for Defence, Marise Payne confirmed this yesterday following a conference with local businesses to discuss the $1 billion injection to Capricornia under the Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, struck between the two nations in May this year.
The Morning Bulletin understands a property which could be as big as 54071.76ha (540717600 sq.m) in the Marlborough area is under contract with the ADF.
Senator Payne did not confirm if any land had been purchased in Central Queensland yet, but said the ADF were "well experienced" in dealing with local land owners in the communities on these issues.
"To enable a growth in the Singaporean training arrangements in Australia of this size we do need to increase the size of both the training areas," Sen Payne said.
"Defence is beginning the process of consulting with land owners, property holders, key community stakeholders in that regard.
"I would hope that that progresses smoothly and I would hope if there were any issues or concerns then they are raised with me through the defence organisation."
Senator Payne said she had not yet been "alerted to any issues" during the land acquisition process.
The Singaporean deal will inject $2.25 billion into Queensland overall, with the $1 billion funding to Capricornia alone expected to nearly triple the number of Singaporean Army personnel to 14,000 visiting the Shoalwater Bay Training Facility annually.
Yesterday's conference marked the first time Senator Payne had visited the region since the Federal Election campaign at the request of Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.
Senator Payne said discussions with Singaporean representatives had not resulted in a date to expect shovels in the ground.
Rather she said an initial and detailed business plan would be developed throughout 2017, with deliverables expected for 2019.
"Concurrently with that we will be developing a master plan for both of the sites (Shoalwater Bay and Townsville Field Training Area), these are huge areas of Australia, they obviously have to be master planned," she said.
"We are talking abou,t for example, live firing training, it's a pretty serious undertaking, we need to make sure that it meets the needs of the military on both sides because whatever is built here will also be used by the ADF.
"So there will be military to military engagement to do that, but we expect to see the upgrade of the deliverables actually start in 2019."
Senator Payne said she and Ms Landry were commitment to engage the expertise, skills and workforce from local sources rather than see "foreign number plates around delivering services".
"And you wouldn't be surprised to know that the businesses in this region were standing up for themselves and saying 'we do a damn good job and we want to be a part of this', and I want to make sure with Michelle's support and Michelle's engagement that we are able to do that," Senator Payne said.
Senator Payne addressed the need to upgrade vital infrastructure such as the roads linked to Shoalwater Bay, but said the socio-encomic, environmental and community impact would have to be assessed before improvements took place, taking into account truck movements, numbers, size, volume and frequency.
Ms Landry said discussions were ongoing to decide the specifics of what would be based in Rockhampton.