SINGAPORE - The defence departments of Singapore and Australia "remain committed" to an agreement signed in October to develop a military training area in northern Queensland, Singapore's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday (Dec 27).
Addressing a recent report that farmers were opposed to selling their land for the site, Mindef said it would continue to "work closely" with the Australian Department of Defence (ADoD) on the development of the training area, which is planned to be near Townsville.
"Mindef and the ADoD remain committed to the full implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Military Training and Training Area Development that was signed by the defence ministers of Australia and Singapore in October," the ministry said in a statement.
The planned site, which will increase the presence of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers training in Australia, will involve the sale of 200,000ha of farmland by 23 farmers, said a report in The Sunday Times.
While the farmers said they were not opposed to the deal, they have asked the Australian government to look at other sites.
The land they own have been held for generations, they said, and the proposed training site covered fertile grazing land.
Following meetings with various stakeholders, including farmers, MPs and defence officials, the federal government agreed recently to reviews its plans for the site. Auditing firm KPMG will also conduct a socio-economic impact assessment next year (2017).
Under an agreement signed in October, Singapore and Australia will jointly develop a new training area in Townsville, which is four times the size of Singapore, and also expand the Shoalwater Bay training site, where SAF have sent troops for training since 1990.
As part of the deal, Singapore has committed A$2.25 billion (S$2.34 billion) over the next 25 years to develop military facilities.
The master planning process for the development of the Townsville training site is likely to take place over the next two years, and construction is expected to start in 2019.
With it, SAF can more than double the number of troops it sends to Australia for training, from 6,600 a year to 14,000. Soldiers can also stay for up to 18 weeks, longer than the current 60 days.