With the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) expansion rapidly increasing the training area’s footprint from approximately 24.7% of our Shire’s landmass to almost 33%, it is now more than ever critical for both the new Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price to come to CQ to discuss with Council, ways that the negative financial impacts of the expansion will have on Livingstone ratepayers can be addressed.
Letters requesting a joint meeting were sent to both Ministers four weeks ago and Council is very keen to receive their timely response, so that discussions on the matters raised can be advanced in a timely manner.
While Council remains appreciative of our community’s potential to benefit both directly from the construction phases of the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative (ASMTI), as well as through potential supply-chain activities during additional exercises, there are a number of critical issues that are already impacting negatively on our Shire’s ratepayers.
The over-arching ‘whole of Shire’ issues of greatest concern are the significant, negative and on-going financial impacts that the ASMTI expansion will have through loss of rate rate-base, as well as the direct and indirect economic loss of so much of our most productive beef producing land.
The collective loss of our rate-base to ADF over many years, which is now approaching 33% of Council’s land mass, has effectively pushed rates up for every other landowner in the Shire. The most recent acquisitions by ADF over the last 12 months alone accounted for almost 35% of our general rate rise this year. A mechanism must be found that will address this continuing and increasingly unfair financial burden on Livingstone ratepayers.
There are also direct social and economic impacts on the small communities of Marlborough, Ogmore and Stanage township through the significant loss of community members and economic support base resulting from these major land acquisitions.
As discussed with previous Defence Ministers, Council believes that some of these significant social and financial impacts could be mitigated through the pro-active provision of investment initiatives to develop defence industry opportunities here in Livingstone Shire. The creation of defence industry hubs and associated secondary industry support initiatives would also support the further diversification of our economic base to create jobs and new career opportunities here in our local communities.
Livingstone Shire Council has indicated very publicly that we would be pleased to partner with the Federal Government to advance and facilitate these defence related opportunities. Council is well positioned to provide shovel ready sites within our Gateway Business and Industry Park, which is strategically located along the SWBTA Blue Route access road.
The visit would also give us the opportunity to discuss how we can best collaborate with the Federal Government to facilitate and support both the critical activities of ADF and SWBTA whilst creating a fairer and more sustainable future for the residents of Livingstone Shire.
In regard to the election promise of $21.6 million in funding to upgrade Stanage Bay Road (SWBTA Grey Route Access), this matter appears to be advancing well thanks to the on-going representations of our Federal Member Michelle Landry.
Council is appreciative of the Federal Government’s commitment to fund this critically needed upgrade and is keen to get the process underway in a timely manner now that this year’s Talisman Sabre exercises are completed.