Graziers blast senators
DEFENCE r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s have blamed a lack of consultation with graziers about land acquisitions in the region on an “administrative oversight”.
Disgruntled Charters Towers graziers gathered in Townsville yesterday for a public Senate hearing into the plans to acquire land for military training as part of the $ 2.25 billion Singapore Defence Deal.
Late last year the revelation that land would be sourced by compulsory acquisition of grazing land surrounding existing training areas sparked fury from graziers, leading to a Federal Government backdown in February.
Defence representative and deputy chair Senator Chris Back yesterday said the lack of consultation had been an “administrative oversight”.
Grazier Glen Spurdle owns five properties, four of which were located in the acquisition zone announced by Defence last year. Mr Spurdle said what made his four properties so special was their location.
“We were never against Defence acquiring more ground for training purposes, but we were against the acquiring of such prime agricultural land,” he said. “Once it’s acquired, its gone forever. I hope my family never have to relive the seven months of hell again.”
Grazier Blair Knuth said he was not against the expansion but how it was handled.
“The amount of angst that has been put on these families is unbelievable,” he said “As citizens of this country, we are not just numbers. Come and talk to us. We may have some solutions that may have worked. It’s not about the money, but more so the fact that the impact came out in a newspaper.”
Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said there needed to be more consideration from government.
“What capability is Defence going to continue to bring to the northern Queensland region, and where is Townsville placed in that?” Cr Hill said.
“We know that the collaboration with Defence isn’t just about industry, it’s about community.”
Charters Towers Mayor Liz Schmidt said the purchase of the properties in any of the proposed areas would have significant community impact on her council and community.
“All areas proposed for acquisition are entirely located within said.
“CTRC ( Charters Towers Regional Council) are both surprised and disappointed that we were overlooked in this inquiry process. There was no direct approach to our jurisdiction,” she council from this committee. “Our first priority was to support the families most impacted by the proposed compulsory acquisition.”
The Bulletin revealed last month Australian and Singaporean military representa- tives had visited three separate tracts of land near Townsville under a plan to buy more properties, following Defence Minister Marise Payne’s declaration in February that land would only be bought from graziers willing to sell.