SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Australia’s Department of Defence (ADoD) "remain committed" to implementing a Memorandum of Understanding to expand Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training facilities in Queensland, Australia, MINDEF said on Tuesday (Dec 27).
Australian media have said farmers living near Townsville are unhappy over the land acquisition. ABC reported that while Australian authorities have yet to detail which properties will have to go, some cattle farmers said the area is prime grazing land and are suggesting other sites further west. At least 23 families have said they will not sell their land, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, MINDEF said on Tuesday that it "understands that the ADoD is consulting closely with the land owners on their concerns".
Up to 200,000 hectares of farmland will be used to build new, state-of-the-art military training facilities, jointly developed by Singapore and Australia. Construction is slated to begin in Queensland in 2019.
When the development in Townsville is complete, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will have a total training area in Australia equivalent to 10 times the size of Singapore, up from the current six times.
The SAF currently holds its annual Exercise Wallaby at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Rockhampton, which began 26 years ago. SAF's presence in Australia will also grow from 6,600 to 14,000, and its personnel will spend 18 weeks per year in the country, up from six weeks at present.
Singapore has reportedly committed up to S$2.5 billion over the next 25 years to the project, which includes a live-firing range and an urban training facility.
MINDEF said it will continue to work closely with the ADoD on the development of the training areas.