Defence has finalised its master planning activity for upgrades to the Shoalwater Bay and Townsville training areas.
Following the initial round of consultation with local landowners, the Defence Department has confirmed that they can meet future training needs of the ADF and the increased training with the Singapore Armed Forces through the purchase of land from willing sellers.
The news comes after much controversy earlier this year when compulsory acquisition of farmland was proposed. The federal government announced on 7 February that no landowners would be forced to sell.
Minister for Defence Senator Marise Payne said, "The approach outlined in the master plan will deliver significant improvements for the Australian Defence Force, enable us to fulfil our agreement with Singapore and drive much-needed investment in central and north Queensland.
"Importantly, 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."
While the Department of Defence cannot disclose the location of individual sellers due to privacy requirements and the commercial-in-confidence nature of the discussions, Defence did emphasise that the expansion areas are all contained within the previously proposed area outlines in the initial planning process.
The enhanced training requires new infrastructure, which will be built by local businesses, Minister Payne said.
"The enhancement involves considerable initial infrastructure works at Townsville Field Training Area and Shoalwater Bay Training Area. As part of the Memorandum of Understanding with Singapore, priority will be given to local businesses in the Townsville and Rockhampton regions to deliver this investment," Minister Payne 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."
Chief of Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell said the expansion and enhancement of these two training areas was vital for the future capability of the ADF.
"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."
The master planning activity involved military planning combined with engineering and geographical analysis, resulting in the amount of land needing to be purchased from willing sellers to be significantly reduced.
The military planners considered the ADF's current and future requirements, taking into consideration the impacts of bringing heavier vehicles and longer-range weapons into service, and also considered the training requirements of the Singapore Armed Forces under the Military Training Agreement.