A planned expansion of the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in northern Queensland is starting to cause controversy with local residents. Some 40 landowners in and around Marlborough received notification of the plans in November, together with a warning that compulsory purchase orders may be necessary in order to facilitate the expansion, meaning they could be forced to sell their homes and leave the area.
The planned expansion is to provide capacity for the Singapore Armed Forces, who already use the existing area under the terms of the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, but who feel it is not large enough to accommodate the troops – some estimates put the number at 14,000 – they seek to train there. The expanded site would be six times the size of the island nation and would facilitate joint and collective training and exercises.
According to sources in Australia, Singapore has promised a ‘sweetener’ of A$2.25 billion, which has, presumable, been an influence in the Australian government’s decision to support the plan. A draft plan is scheduled to be completed in February and the Australian Parliament will debate the acquisition and development strategy thereafter.