Grazier battles Shoalwater Bay Training Area expansion
IMAGINE having your land and livelihood stripped away from you by someone who you've never even met signing an agreement with a foreign country.
Philippa Rea and her husband Clinton don't have to imagine it, it's their reality.
The Rockhampton couple are one of many Shoalwater Bay landowners poised to lose their property due to compulsory acquisition by the Australian Government for use by the Defence Force for expansion of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
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But they're not going down without a fight.
At 3pm today, Mrs Rea will stand up and be the fighting voice for all graziers in the Marlborough area who are facing the same devastating reality as her, one she says will have a profound, disastrous affect on the wider Rockhampton and Livingstone regions.
"I will be speaking at the Marlborough Town Meeting on behalf of affected graziers and will be speaking about the personal and emotional, the physical, and the social and economic impacts this acquisition will have on our community," Mrs Rea said.
"We own and run a beef cattle property on Stanage Bay Road and have recently been advised that this very property is to be compulsorily acquired by the Australian Government for use by the Defence Force for expansion of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
"The Defence Force use it for Australian troops and will be offering it to the Singapore Army for training for 18 weeks of the year, for up to 14000 troops to train.
"We oppose this compulsory acquisition - this property has been in the family for generations; it is our livelihood and forms the very essence of who we are - and this can be said for the other 30-40 families who will also be forced from their homes, properties and lives because of this acquisition."
Mrs Rea said while the land acquisition was quite personal for her family, she wondered if the rest of the region was aware of the implications that may arise as a result of the decision.
With property spanning approximately 8000 acres, Mrs Rea said she and Clinton pay $19,000 a year in rates - money which would not be injected into the Livingstone Shire Council each year if the deal goes ahead.
"The acquisition is looking to acquire roughly 350,000-400,000 acres of land - land that pays at a similar rate," she said.
"We've estimated, based on our rates costs, that Livingstone Shire Council is set to lose somewhere in the order of $500,000 to $800,000 in rates - if the ADF acquires, then it becomes Federal land, and the Federal government does not pay rates.
"We wondered if anyone has stopped to think about who will bear this rates deficit."
Mrs Rea feared the loss of revenue for Livingstone Shire Council would force rates increases on the Capricorn Coast and even in Rockhampton.
"Are the residents of Livingstone prepared to have their rates go up because the Singapore Army wants area to train?" she asked.
"Will Rockhampton rates payers have to bear the brunt too? If you think that the acquisition of some farming properties north of Rockhampton will not affect you, then I'm afraid you are in for a rude shock."
Mrs Rea urged anyone not prepared for the acquisition to happen to contact Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry and ask her to stand up and take action on behalf of the region and get the acquisition strategy rejected.
Today's public meeting will be attended not only by those in the wider Marlborough community, but by quite a number of concerned parties and politicians from across Australia.
Joanne Rae from Property Rights Australia and AgForce general president Grant Maudsley will attend along with representatives of local, state and national governments including Member for Mirani Jim Pearce, Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga, State Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne, all Livingstone Shire councillors, One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson and Queensland Senator Matt Canavan.
Ms Hanson said her attendance at the meeting was prompted by pleas for help from landowners.
"I have received so many complaints and so much information about this matter that I have decided it must be looked into further," Ms Hanson said.
"That's why I'm heading out to listen to the community to see if I can find the truth. We need to protect our prime agricultural land. We need to protect our regional communities."
Federal Member Michelle Landry has declined to attend due to being abroad.
The meeting will be held at the Marlborough Town Hall at 3pm.