Army land bid still alive ADF in talks on location for Singapore training
john. THE Australian Defence Force has confirmed it is still looking for training land for the Singapore military in the Ravenswood, Pentland and Ravenswood districts.
The ADF also confirmed yesterday that it was in talks with some of the 23 owners of land near the existing 200,000ha Townsville Field Training Area, initially targeted for compulsory acquisition last year before a Federal Gov- ernment backdown in February.
Senator Ian Macdonald raised fears this week that a long silence surrounding the search for land under the $ 2.2 billion Australian- Singapore Military Training Initiative could mean the Townsville area was in danger of being ditched in favour of Rockhamptons’s Shoalwater Bay.
But a Defence spokeswoman yesterday said talks over potential land sales in the region were ongoing.
“Defence is continuing con- sultations with willing sellers around the Townsville Field Training Area,” she said. “Defence is also assessing the feasibility of alternative sites suggested by the community in the vicinity of Townsville, including Pentland, Greenvale and Ravenswood.”
The initiative involves 14,000 Singapore troops training in central and North Queensland for 18 weeks a year for at least 25 years.
A KPMG report on the socio- economic impact of the initiative found that under the existing plan, Townsville and Rockhampton would benefit from the military initiative.
The report found Townsville would receive $ 143 million in additional investment expenditure during each year of the seven- year development phase.
However, Senator Macdonald yesterday warned that the KPMG report was commissioned by the Defence Department when the situation surrounding the military partnership program “was a lot different to what it is now”.
He feared some elements of the report might already be redundant, given the struggle to find suitable land in the Townsville region.
He said one such case was a reference to concerns in Charters Towers about the economic impacts on the town if 23 cattle stations were resumed.
Senator Macdonald said that as far as he understood hardly any of the 23 station owners involved were prepared to sell. He said if this was the case there would be minimal economic disruption to Charters Towers.
The KPMG report found that in Townsville there was “strong recognition of the benefits” of the long- term joint military program.
It noted that only “minimal concerns” had been raised in Townsville.
It is envisaged that the seven- year construction phase as part of the initiative would start in 2019.
When completed, troops from Singapore would be rotated through the training area in groups of 2000 to 4000.
The military hardware the troops would bring would include vehicles, artillery, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.