Lawyer Barry Taylor writes landowners' guide to Proposed Shoalwater Bay Resumption

The Department of Defence (“Defence”) has made clear that it proposes to acquire properties as part of the Townsville Field and Shoalwater Bay, Training Area Expansion.

This comes as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Military Training and Training Area Development in Australia between the Australian and the Singaporean Governments, which delivers a framework to implement increased Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) unilateral Army training in Australia.

Land Acquisitions - from Willing Sellers

Defence have informed landowners that it seeks to acquire their land for expansion purposes. It is now clear that any acquisitions will be by way of negotiated agreement with “willing sellers”.

Landowners that were initially informed that their land was in the expansion area, will no doubt be buoyed by the recent announcements of Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister for Defence Marise Payne, that no landowner will be forced to sell their land.

Master Planning Complete

Defence have recently announced that the “master planning” has been completed and has identified the ability of Defence to meet the future training needs of Defence and the increased training with Singapore Armed Forces through the purchase of land from willing sellers, while leaving those landowners who are not willing to sell to Defence, to get on with their lives.

What is the current Expansion Area?

Mapping of the revised Expansion Area is not yet publicly available.

However, in the Minister’s announcement, it was stated as a result of the master planning process Defence has significantly reduced the scope of the training area expansion.

Landowners who are NOT Willing Sellers…

Should your land be identified as within the revised expansion area, but you are not willing to sell, your land will remain just that – your land!

This is the commitment from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence.

Landowners should remain wary.

This is a commitment by the current Government.  The powers of compulsory acquisition under the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 remain available. The Government has simply said it (and Defence) will not turn to this Act today.

What will the Government / Defence do in the event that it is unable, through negotiated acquisitions, to obtain land that is sufficient for the expansion of the existing training areas? Perhaps the issue of compulsory acquisition may be revisited in the future following the current round of negotiated acquisitions with willing sellers.  Only time will tell!

While there is no doubt you have had a win (your land will remain your land), there may still be consequences from your land being identified within the desired expansion area. It is recommended you give consideration to the impact (if any) upon:

  • the market value of your land;
  • the security value of your land;
  • the marketability of your land to other graziers;
  • the public perception of being within the expansion area;
  • life on the land with the expansion of the training areas, in some cases around you; and
  • any business you may operate upon your land.

We encourage you to become informed and act in the best interests of your family and business.

Landowners who ARE Willing Sellers…

We recommend that landowners who are willing to explore the opportunity for the sale of their land, to commence discussions and negotiations with Defence.

Commencing discussions and actually negotiating and agreeing on a sale, are two different things!

Defence has announced that they are available for information meetings with Landowners, in the week of 27 February 2017.

At present, it is unclear how Defence will handle negotiations for acquisition of land and at what point Defence will make any formal offer to purchase land.

It is common sense for Defence to first understand who the willing sellers are, to fully appreciate the risk of acquiring pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that do not provide continuity or connectivity of land to their existing training areas.

What is clear, is that landowners will need to confirm in their own minds, what acquisition terms would make proceeding with a sale attractive to them and their business. There are a raft of considerations and negotiation points including the proposed purchase price and any premium which should be paid by Defence.

To make a fully-informed decision on negotiation and acquisition terms, we recommend you seek legal, financial and valuation advice.

Experienced Advisor

Emanate Legal is a leader in acquisitions and rural transactions involving property and associated business operations throughout Australia.  Emanate Legal is available to assist Landowners in securing the right outcome in this circumstance, whether it be by negotiated agreement or if the situation changes or evolves, by compulsory acquisition.

Emanate Legal has acted for affected landowners under the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 and is experienced in understanding the heads of compensation available to those landowners.

Emanate Legal has a team of experienced solicitors available to assist Landowners who are in the expansion area and are currently considering their position.

Would you please feel free to contact us for an obligation free consultation:

Barry Taylor - Mob: 0419 643 894

Connie Navarro - Mob: 0407 725 306

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