'We are in no better position' after Payne's announcement - Marlborough committee

Linda Geddes, Leslie Olive, Danii McKenzie and Joanne Rea at the meeting
Linda Geddes, Leslie Olive, Danii McKenzie and Joanne Rea at the meeting Kerri-Anne Mesner

A GROUP of landholders and business owners who have come together in a committee after receiving land acquisition letters feel they are in no better position after the Defence Ministers visit yesterday.

Defence Minister Marise Payne visited the region yesterday after much publicised angst over the proposed acquisition of 162,000 hectares to expand Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area, which currently covers almost 450,000 hectares.

The Marlborough Against Defence Land Grab Committee have responded to Ms Payne's announcement yesterday that she had ordered the Department of Defence to minimise the amount of agriculture land in the acquisition plan, that any land which is required to be acquired should be done so in a timely manner and the Master Plan be delivered in four weeks rather than later in the year as originally expected.

Defence Minister Marise Payne, Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry outside Ms Landry's office.
Defence Minister Marise Payne, Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry outside Ms Landry's office. Kerri-Anne Mesner

Ms Payne met with landholders, business owners, agriculture organisation representatives, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd, Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan, Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow and Livingstone Mayor Bill Ludwig.

Committee spokeswoman Danii McKenzie said the committee welcomed the meeting with Minister Payne, alongside local Federal LNP members.

"We went to the meeting hoping for answers and we now await the announcement of Master Planning in four weeks' time,” she said.

"We are concerned that while Minister Payne used the phrase "agricultural land for agricultural purposes” often, she also used the phrase "minimum acquisition” just as frequently. It seems to us that much our agricultural land may still be acquired and that in four weeks' time we will be in no better position than we are now.

"We asked for proof of economic benefit to the Capricornia region, and Senator Canavan spoke of "priority to and opportunities for” local businesses, but we know that this is merely semantics and Canberra-talk - and that priority and opportunity are not the same as a guarantee.”

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Mrs McKenzie said the committee made it quite clear that it supported the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Singapore and Australia and understand that this partnership will enrich both countries in many ways, but that the current proposal to expand the Shoalwater Bay Training Area by any form of acquisition was not in the best interests of the nation. 

"We put forward that even a 'minimum acquisition' was not in the best interests of our graziers, our business owners, our local and wider communities or our nation and asked that the Australian Government find an alternative,” she said.

"Marise said this was the last area they considered taking and had already looked into other alternatives, but due to the 21st century military equipment the land requirements were not meet.

Mrs McKenzie said 21st century equipment should not be used prime grazing land.

"Do you think if a war were to occur that it would be held upon this prime grazing Land? I think not.

"We still stand by our decision to whether an alternative land is suitable or not, no studies have been completed so a decision such as that can not be made as of yet.

"We will not roll over to this. This is our home, our livelihoods not theirs.

"We are not pieces of chess in their game we are people who have rights.”

Topics:  marise payne marlborough against defence land grab committee shoalwater bay expansion shoalwater bay miltiary training area

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