Australia Federal Government has dropped the plan to compulsory acquire farmland in Queensland which was used for joint training exercise between Australia and Singapore military.
Initially, there were about 60 graziers at Shoalwater Bay who were told by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that they might be forced to sell their land as the Government had planned to span hundreds of thousands of hectares, north of Rockhampton and west of Townsville.
According to local media, ABC Australia, there were about 5,000 hectares of state forest and national parks which have also been earmarked for acquisition from the State Government.
However, the Government stated that property owners who still wish to sell their land will still be able to do so.
In a statement last year, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had announced that the Republic had secured the use of the Townsville Field Training Area in the state which size is about four times larger than Singapore.
He then added that by that time, the ADF was in process to acquire another piece of training ground and join them altogether to a size five times bigger than Singapore.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce had promised last week that he would fight with the graziers to hold on to the ownership of the land.
In a joint statement, Mr Barnaby and Defence Minister Marise Payne stated that the Government will only purchase land from willing sellers around Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Townsville Field Training Area.
Ms Payne told the Queensland Country Hour, “I’ve listened to the concerns of local land owners and have ruled out forced sales.”
“The case has been made and it’s a very strong case,” she added.
She also said that the Government will work closely with Singapore to ensure that the deal continues, adding a master plan would be finalised in a fortnight, saying, “The land that forms the final training areas, at both Shoalwater Bay and Townsville, will come together as part of this master planning process.”
“And as willing vendors work with Defence in regard to their properties, that is part of the planning process. I’m comfortable that we will continue to do that until we get the right outcome,” Ms Payne stated.
She also said that alternative sites were raised during the consultation phase, noting, “We indicated that we would consider those and that’s underway”.
However, she stressed that the infrastructure and development is already at Shoalwater Bay and Townsville.
One of the graziers, Sharon Howard, told ABC that they were “over the moon” and many of her fellows called her, crying with relief.
She said that the policy was flawed and should never have been allowed off the drawing board, adding that the sheer scale of the proposal was terrifying.
Owner of three properties within the resumption zone west of Townsville, Glen and Robyn Spurdle, was quoted by media to have said that the decision was a pure relief.