Nicholls: Shoalwater a 'ham-fisted' mess
QUEENSLAND Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls has described the process of proposed compulsory acquisitions at Marlborough as "a ham-fisted" mess.
As protests from landowners who faced losing their livelihoods to the expansion of Shoalwater Bay military training area grew louder, Mr Nicholls urgently contacted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and implored him to personally intervene.
It seems his appeal paid dividends, with Mr Turnbull agreeing to look at alternative solutions during a phone call on Monday night.
"It became apparent to me last week it wasn't being resolved satisfactorily, so I sent a message to the PM on Sunday and followed with a letter on Monday morning highlighting our concerns, saying that the matter was turning into a mess," Mr Nicholls told The Morning Bulletin.
"It was ham-fisted, people were being left up in the air and there was no certainty around the process."
Landowners reacted angrily when The Morning Bulletin told them the news this morning, accusing the government of trying to diffuse a difficult political situation rather than looking for genuine alternatives.
But Mr Nicholls said he would keep pushing the Federal Government to look for a real solution to community concerns.
"This about sticking up for Queensland families, the graziers and landholders who have owned land for generations and finding a way forward," he said.
"We know the Rockhampton community wants to see the benefit of defence spending in the region, but we also know that has to take into account and balance the rights of the landowners who have been doing it tough.
"This matter has been on the radar screen since before Christmas.
"There was a hope it had been resolved with certain statements that had been made by the Defence Department.
"That hasn't proven to be true, so I've taken up the cudgels on behalf of those landowners to contact the Prime Minister directly about it.
"We'll keep pushing for alternatives to be investigated and to be looked at.
"What I'm concerned about is that rather than just the easiest option, all the options are explored and there needs to be communication with the graziers about those alternatives.
"It can't just be done in isolation down in Canberra.
"It needs to involve the local people up there.
"It needs to be a real solution that investigates alternatives and comes up with solutions. At the moment that's not occurring. All people really have is uncertainty and confusion."
Mr Nicholls said an investigation of alternatives should investigate the use of existing land, alternative land in the area, or expanding in a new location.
Whatever the outcome, Mr Nicholls said it was vital a solution suited the needs of landowners and the Rockhampton community as a whole.
"I think compulsory acquisition is always and absolutely the last resort," he said.
"I don't think the case has been made yet that compulsory acquisition is the answer, if it can ever be made."