23rd November 2016
Media Release – Governments need to reassess approach in wake of farm defence acquisitions
Property Rights Australia (PRA) asks that the government reconsider all options before proceeding with its current proposal to compulsory acquire productive agricultural land to meet obligations to the Singapore Government under the Singapore Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
Dale Stiller, Chairman of PRA said, “The government needs to acknowledge that this proposal will not only have a profound impact on the landowners targeted to be removed from their land, but also a wider community and agricultural production.”
PRA points out the current defence acquisition of a large area expanding both the Shoalwater Bay and Townsville military training areas again demonstrates how all levels of government need to considerably improve how they approach rural landowners.
Mr Stiller explained, “There is a widespread lack of understanding by decision makers and those that implement these decisions – politicians and public servants – of the agricultural productivity differences between different land/soil types. With productivity vastly greater on superior land types, it should be an imperative that governments firstly target low quality soil types for urban expansion, mining and petroleum activity, infrastructure and military use.”
“Greater respect needs to afforded to landowners asked to make sacrifice apparently for the greater good”, said Mr Stiller, “Compensation based on valuation of the land asset alone, does not make up for what is often of much greater value to a landowner. Money, time, and sweat has often gone into building a productive property, often over generations, bonding a close connection to that land.”
Another approach PRA points out that all levels of government need to urgently reassess is an appreciation of subtle differences between how rural communities collectively operate against what occurs in urban communities. Mr Stiller explains, “There is a collective local knowledge over a wide geographic area. If government approaches a local community with what the need is and provides the opportunity for input, local knowledge can result in a practical outcome avoiding many pitfalls not even considered from a desk in a capital city.”
The Townsville/ Charters Towers group of affected landowners by a large majority have decided that they do not wish sell and have offered an alternative solution of a large area of land of lesser agricultural value. While the Shoalwater Bay/ Marlborough group will have a community meeting in the New Year to discuss all options.
Mr Stiller said that, “PRA will support these communities and any decisions they make. PRA believes the government should make every effort to fully explore any suggested alternatives.”
“All levels of government are too keen make headlines announcing deals with multinational companies and foreign governments. It would appear that the attraction of millions (or billions) of dollars blindside consideration of the people, their property rights, local economic disadvantage and amenity of life. Government should consider the interests of communities and landowners first, not last. People should not be seen as simply an impediment to implementing what has already been decided,” said Dale Stiller, Chairman of Property Rights Australia.