The Department of Defence is seeking to develop a separate site in the wider Townsville region as part of the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative, rather than expanding the existing Townsville Field Training Area.
The plan to seek to purchase land from willing sellers at either Greenvale, Ravenswood or Pentland was announced on Wednesday morning by the department.
It also confirmed that following consultation with the local community, businesses, representative groups and landholders, the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in central Queensland will be expanded.
Land will only be purchased from willing sellers, in accordance with the February 7 announcement by Defence Minister, Marise Payne, which signalled the end of an intense two-month campaign by landholders against the original intention by the department to forcibly acquire properties in both the Charters Towers and Marlborough regions.
Based on initial assessments, a training area near Greenvale would best meet the Australian Defence Force’s and Singapore Armed Forces’ requirements, both now and into the future, the statement said.
“Defence will conduct due diligence and further engagement with willing sellers near Greenvale.
“Sites near Ravenswood and Pentland will be considered should Greenvale prove not to be feasible.”
Comment has been sought from the Charters Towers steering committee that fought off the original government proposal.
AgForce’s central Queensland manager, Sharon Purcell said the announcement had been expected for a while.
“From a central Queensland point of view, this now allows people who want to sell to start negotiations.
“Some have been waiting quite a while so this is a relief for them.
“Others don’t want to sell and won’t be affected, which is the way it should be.”
Ms Purcell didn’t wish to estimate how many landholders might be considering negotiations with the Defence Department, saying that some had changed their mind since initial discussions, and others wanted to hear what money was being offered before committing.
“The ball is in the landholders’ court now,” she said.
In June, the Defence Department appointed Townsville business leader and former Army officer, Mick Reilly, as its community liaison, ensuring the department was “actively addressing the needs of stakeholders in the central and north Queensland regions”, according to Minister Payne at the time.
Ms Purcell said landholders in her area were reporting vastly improved communication channels.
According to Wednesday’s statement, the department is also beginning detailed construction design work for facilities and infrastructure. It said construction would occur at both locations in parallel from 2019.
“The delivery of enhanced training areas in central and north Queensland will benefit the ADF’s training capacity, as well as Australia’s bilateral defence relationship with Singapore.
“It is part of the government’s commitment to creating strong and enduring economic opportunities for local communities and businesses.
“Defence will host community walk-in sessions and industry engagement briefings in the local areas in the near future.”
A community information day will take place in Rockhampton on December 13 and there will be an industry briefing at Parkhurst on December 14.
More information and contact details for the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative can be found by visiting the website.