Gra­ziers blast se­na­tors

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - DANNI SHAFIK danielle. shafik@ news. com. au

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.

OVER­SIGHT: Cat­tle­man Blair Knuth ad­dresses yes­ter­day’s hear­ing. Pic­ture: ZAK SIM­MONDS

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