Minister Payne met with the National Farmers' Federation, AgForce, local mayors and community members in Rockhampton to discuss the proposed land acquisition around Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Townsville Field Training Area as part of the Military Training Agreement with Singapore.
“The government understands that uncertainty about the current consultation process has created anxiety for potentially affected farmers,’’ Minister Payne said.
“My starting point as Minister for Defence is that agricultural land should be for agricultural purposes. Let me also reiterate that no decisions about land acquisition have yet been made by the government.”
Minister Payne said she had instructed the department to contain any land acquisition to an absolute minimum.
“I have instructed Defence to speed up the process and end any uncertainty as quickly as possible, which understandably has caused anxiety for landholders,’’ Minister Payne said.
“Up to now, the department has advised that no decisions would be able to be made prior to the second half of this year. I have instructed them to speed up that process so that the specific expansion zone for both Shoalwater Bay and Townsville will be confirmed within four weeks.
“It is important to note that the Australian Defence Force must be able to train effectively with modern facilities and that we have entered into an agreement with Singapore that will bring significant economic benefits to the Townsville and Rockhampton regions.”
These economic benefits include:
- Up to $2.25 billion is to be spent over the next 10 years and an estimated $50 million to be spent annually for the 25 years of the agreement;
- The agreement specifies that priority will be given to local businesses in the Rockhampton and Townsville areas; and
- This will be in addition to the significant investment currently made by the Australian Defence Force and Singapore Armed Forces.
The Military Training Agreement will drive jobs and investment through the construction of infrastructure, purchase of local supplies, equipment hire and the maintenance of vehicles and equipment. The increase in Singaporean troops is also expected to drive a boost in the local tourism sector.
Defence will continue to engage with potentially affected farmers throughout the process.
“Let me stress again that it is my commitment that this process will be resolved quickly and minimise impacts on landowners, leaseholders and the community in the region,” Minister Payne said.