Army land bid still alive ADF in talks on location for Sin­ga­pore train­ing

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

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.

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