Minister for Defence, Marise Payne in Rockhampton to visit Queensland Linen Service which is likely to benefit from increased military training in at Shoalwater Bay by the Singapore Defence Force.     Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Minister for Defence, Marise Payne in Rockhampton to visit Queensland Linen Service which is likely to benefit from increased military training in at Shoalwater Bay by the Singapore Defence Force. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin Chris Ison ROK140616cdefence6

AgForce welcomes 'significant reduction' in finalised Shoalwater plan

5.40pm: AGFORCE says it is disappointed the Shoalwater Bay expansion Master Plan was not being publicly released, but welcomed today's announcement about significant reduction of land expansion.

AgForce General President Grant Maudsley welcomed the Defence Minister's confirmation today that the master plan had been completed, and that no farming families would be forced to sell their land to allow for military training area expansions.

 

"While the right result was achieved in the end, this whole process has caused so much unnecessary heartache and stress for farming families in Central and North Queensland and we don't want to see other communities go through what these communities have gone through," he said.

 

"AgForce said right from the outset that Defence needed to look at alternatives to forcing farmers from their land, and the Minister's comments today that they will use their existing training facilities better to deliver on their agreement with Singapore begs the question of why they didn't decide to do that in the first place."

 

Mr Maudsley said it was disappointing the master plan was not being released publicly, and he urged Defence officials to ensure landholders understood the outcomes of the master plan and what it meant for them.

 

"These farming families went through months of uncertainty and it's vital that Defence officials meet promptly with all the affected landholders in person to answer all their questions about where to from here," he said.

 

Mr Maudsley said the issue highlighted the constant battle farmers faced preserving agricultural land for agricultural use, and the need for better protection of farm land in planning processes.

 

"Agricultural land is constantly being taken away from landholders for a variety of reasons such as national park expansions, urban sprawl and mining developments, as well as being rendered useless by ill-conceived Government regulations," he said.

 

"Farmers are custodians and environmental stewards of valuable farm land and that's a responsibility we take very seriously. Yet we are constantly under pressure from multiple stakeholders and multiple levels of government that make it harder for us to get on with the job of feeding the world.

 

"Agriculture and farming are woven into the fabric of Australian culture, the economy and regional communities - and this should not and must not be compromised."

Land owners interested in selling their property can contact the Defence Program Office by email on: singapore.training@defence.gov.au or by phone on 02 6266 8292.

Defence will be conducting face to face engagement next week in Stanage Bay, Marlborough, Rockhampton, Charters Towers and Townsville in the week beginning Monday February 27.

 

3.10pm: CAPRICORNIA MP Michelle Landry says today's announcement about the Shoalwater Bay expansion Master plan guarantees game-changing benefits to Rockhampton businesses.

Ms Landry pointed to the original announcement of the deal between Singapore and Australia for the use of Shoalwater Bay and Townsville military training areas which would result in a $1 billion injection of defence spending in our local region.

"Businesses in the Rockhampton area will be given priority for the construction of new facilities and ongoing support at the Shoalwater Bay site," she said.

"This once in a lifetime deal will see $1 billion being spent at Central Queensland construction, logistics, transport, tourism, retail, hospitality and accommodation firms.

"Defence clearly erred when they flagged the possibility of forced land sales late last year.

"In December, I promised land owners that I would lobby the highest levels of government on their behalf, seeking to ensure compulsory land sales were to be off the table.

"Throughout this process, I have maintained daily conversations with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Defence Minister Marise Payne.

"Together, we have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to deliver this outcome, with no forced land sales in Central Queensland.

"The release of the defence master plan will deliver certainty and relief for Marlborough graziers, while guaranteeing the economic boost resulting from the defence expansion. This is a clear win-win scenario for the community."

1.57pm: THE master plan for expansion of military training areas in Queensland have been finalised, but there's a catch.

Unlike the maps made public when it was initially announced that the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area and Townsville Field Training Area would be expanded by land acquisition, this latest development has no maps and very little detail.

When you go to the map section of the initiative online now, it comes up with two Google maps - one showing where Shoalwater Bay is and the other where the Townsville training area with dots, no boundary lines.

However, when Minister for Defence Marise Payne made the announcement this afternoon, she stated the area of expansion has been significantly reduced.

The announcement also states the master planning confirmed that the existing training areas are currently operating at capacity. Based on initial feedback from potential willing sellers, the Department of Defence assessment shows that a smaller expansion of the two areas was achievable.

Defence has identified a number of measures to achieve the training outcomes for the Australian Defence Force and Singapore Armed Forces within this smaller expansion. These measures seek to maximise the use of the existing training areas through additional engineering works, revised scheduling, and simulated training activities to further limit the need for expansion.

As a further risk mitigation measure and based on suggestions which were made during the initial round of consultations with the community, Defence will also continue to explore the viability of alternative sites in the vicinity of Townsville, involving willing sellers, to meet the long term training requirements of the Australian Defence Force.

Ms Payne made the announcement just after lunch today, saying the master planning activity has produced a viable option that strikes the balance between Defence's important capability needs and the range of national considerations.

"As a result of the master planning process Defence has significantly reduced the scope of the training area expansion that is needed to meet the Australian Defence Force's training requirements, and land will only be purchased from willing sellers," she said.

"Defence will now consult with relevant landowners and leaseholders around Shoalwater Bay and Townsville that have expressed an interest to Defence during the planning process."

Defence cannot identify the location of individual sellers due to privacy requirements and the commercial-in-confidence nature of the discussions. Defence restates that no landowner will be forced to sell their land.

Federal Member for Flynn, Ken O'Dowd said he was pleased with the more consultative approach taken and believed a 'significantly reduced' expansion area will be well received, locally.

"One of the main questions previously was just how much new land Defence actually needed, it would appear that need is not as large as first feared.

The Morning Bulletin has contacted Capricornia MP Michelle Landry's office for comment and expects that to come through soon.

The master planning results along with the ongoing KPMG socio-economic study will form the basis of the department's initial business case to Government for final approval of expansion.

Chief of Army, LTGEN Angus Campbell said the expansion and enhancement of these two training areas was vital for the future capability of the Australian Defence Force.

"The Australian Defence Force is engaged in a major modernisation program that will see significant new capabilities and platforms coming online over the next decade," LTGEN Campbell said.

"The weapons systems in which the Government has invested through the 2016 Defence White Paper will have greater reach than ever before, requiring larger training areas to maintain vital safety standards, and observe our environmental requirements.

"This training will help ensure the Australian Defence Force remains potent, mobile and effective."

For more information about the enhanced training areas is available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/Initiatives/SingaporeTraining/  

Military Training Agreement - Master Planning summary

The process:

The master planning activity involved military planning combined with engineering and geographical analysis.

As a result of the master planning the amount of land to be purchased from willing sellers has been significantly reduced.

The military planners considered the Australian Defence Force's current and future requirements, including the impacts of bringing heavier vehicles and longer-range weapons into service.

The training requirements of the Singapore Armed Forces under the Military Training Agreement were also assessed. Engineers and military experts in range usage also considered what changes could be made within the existing training areas to maximise the space available while still maintaining Defence's commitments to environmental legislation.

The master planning process identified the training needs and options on how Defence could best achieve them, with the least amount of additional land. 

The outcomes:

The master planning confirmed that existing training areas are currently operating at capacity. To accommodate both Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training into the future there is a requirement to expand Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Townsville Field Training Area. This would allow for the ADF and SAF to train concurrently without restrictions.

Based on initial feedback from potential willing sellers, Defence assesses that a smaller expansion of Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Townsville Field Training Area is achievable. As a result of the master planning process, Defence has identified a number of measures to achieve the training outcomes for the Australian Defence Force and Singapore Armed Forces within this smaller expansion. These measures seek to maximise the use of the existing training areas through additional engineering works, revised scheduling, and simulated training activities to further limit the need for expansion.

As a further risk mitigation measure and based on suggestions which were made during the initial round of consultations with the community, Defence will also continue to explore the viability of alternative sites in the vicinity of Townsville, involving willing sellers, to meet the long term training requirements of the Australian Defence Force.

As a result of the master planning the amount of land to be purchased from willing sellers has been significantly reduced.

 

Next steps:

Defence will now engage in consultations with landowners and leaseholders around Shoalwater Bay and Townsville who have expressed an interest in selling to Defence during the planning process and those who approach defence in the future.

The expansion areas are all contained within the previously proposed area outlined in the initial planning process.

Defence cannot identify the location of individual sellers due to privacy requirements and the commercial-in-confidence nature of the discussions.

It is important to emphasise that land will only be purchased from willing sellers, the Australian Government will own the land and the Australian Defence Force will have priority use.

Defence representatives will be in the Townsville and Rockhampton regions the week beginning Monday February 27 to answer any questions and talk with the community.

Submissions for the KPMG socio-economic study close on 6 March and Defence encourages community members to have their say. Details can be found at: http://www.defence.gov.au/Initiatives/SingaporeTraining/Assessment.asp

The results of master planning and the KPMG study will form part of Defence's initial business case for final Government consideration and approval of the expansion plans.



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