Australian farmers are opposed to selling their land for proposed Singapore Army’s military training site in northern Queensland.
The planned site, which will increase the presence of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers training in Australia, will involve the sale of 200,000ha of farmland by 23 farmers, said a report in The Sunday Times.
"Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the defence ministers of Australia and Singapore in October," the ministry said in a statement.
Under this agreement, Singapore and Australia will jointly develop a new training area in Townsville, which is four times the size of Singapore, and also expand the Shoalwater Bay training site, where SAF have sent troops for training since 1990. As part of the deal, Singapore has committed A$2.25 billion (S$2.34 billion) over the next 25 years to develop military facilities.
"We were not opposed to the deal, but have asked the Australian government to look at other sites”, the farmers said. The land they own have been held for generations, they said. “the proposed training site covers fertile grazing land.” The farmers added.
Following meetings with various stakeholders, including farmers, MPs and defence officials, the federal government agreed recently to reviews its plans for the site. Auditing firm KPMG will also conduct a socio-economic impact assessment next year.
The master planning process for the development of the Townsville training site is likely to take place over the next two years, and construction is expected to start in 2019.
We would continue to "work closely" with the Australian Department of Defence (ADoD) on the development of the training area, which is planned to be near Townsville, Mindef said. With it, Singapore Air Force can double the number of troops it sends to Australia for training, from 6,600 a year to 14,000. Soldiers can also stay for up to 18 weeks, longer than the current 60 days.