Sin­ga­pore deal ‘ at risk’

Se­na­tor warns train­ing land hunt may move on

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JOHN AN­DER­SEN an­der­sen@ news. com. au john.

THE long si­lence sur­round­ing the Sin­ga­pore army land hunt could mean the Townsville re­gion is in dan­ger of be­ing ditched in favour of Rock­hamp­ton’s Shoal­wa­ter Bay, says Se­na­tor Ian Mac­don­ald.

The Townsville- based se­na­tor fears that if land can’t be found near the city on which Sin­ga­pore sol­diers can train, the fo­cus will move else­where.

The $ 2.2 bil­lion Aus­tralia-- Sin­ga­pore Mil­i­tary Train­ing Ini­tia­tive will see the Asian na­tion de­ploy 14,000 troops for 18 weeks a year for at least 25 years in what would be a mas­sive boost for Townsville.

But the city would only see the ben­e­fits – which Se­na­tor Mac­don­ald es­ti­mates would be a $ 50 mil­lion- a- year wind­fall – if land which suits Sin­ga­pore’s pur­poses can be found in the greater Townsville area.

Find­ing a large tract of land within a rea­son­able dis­tance from Townsville is the key to set­ting the city up as be­ing the ser­vice and sup­ply hub to what would be the na­tion’s pre- em­i­nent mil­i­tary train­ing zone.

A plan re­vealed late last year to com­pul­so­rily ac­quire land in the Her­veys Range re­gion, next to the Townsville Field Train­ing Area, sparked fury from gra­ziers, lead­ing to a Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment back­down in Fe­bru­ary.

An Aus­tralian mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive has vis­ited sta­tion own­ers on Her­veys Range to see if they would sell, but the Bul­letin un­der­stands the bid was un­suc­cess­ful. It’s un­der­stood op­tions at Pent­land, Green­vale and Ravenswood are also be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

Se­na­tor Mac­don­ald is con­cerned that if none of these op­tion stack up, the Sin­ga­pore mil­i­tary could choose Rock­hamp­ton, where it has held de­fence train­ing as­sets for the past 20 years. But he doubted Sin­ga­pore would move the land hunt to the North­ern Ter­ri­tory or to Western Aus­tralia.

“We are try­ing to pick up the pieces for Townsville. Whether Sin­ga­pore is in­ter­ested or not, we don’t know. Sin­ga­pore has been go­ing into Shoal­wa­ter Bay for 20 years,” Se­na­tor Mac­don­ald said.

He said there was lit­tle in­for­ma­tion avail­able in re­gard to the land pur­chas­ing plan. The Aus­tralian De­fence Force has failed to re­spond to sev­eral Bul­letin re­quests for in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing one this week.

But Townsville Cham­ber of Com­merce CEO Marie- Claude Brown is op­ti­mistic about Townsville’s chances.

“I’m not read­ing too much into any­thing, given the lack of in­for­ma­tion. It’s a slow- burn re­la­tion­ship in terms of it all start­ing, but once it hap­pens it will be long- term,” she said.

Ms Brown said Sin­ga­pore of­fi­cials had al­ready in­di­cated they wanted to come to the Townsville area. “We don’t want this op­por­tu­nity to slip through our fin­gers,” she said.

Se­na­tor Mac­don­ald said he hoped to be part of a min­is­te­rial del­e­ga­tion go­ing to Sin­ga­pore in Au­gust for talks on the train­ing part­ner­ship.

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