Uncertainty remains for 60 landholders in Queensland's Charters Towers and Marlborough areas with the Government refusing to rule out the compulsory acquisition of up to 300,000 hectares of farm land for defence training purposes.
Speaking after a meeting with Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne in Rockhampton today NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said the Minister did not take compulsory acquisition off the table although she did say the course of action would be 'an absolute last resort'.
"I reiterated to the Minister that we were remain vehemently opposed to the compulsory acquisition of farms and that agricultural land must be preserved for farming purposes."
Mr Mahar acknowledged that an undertaking by the Minister to fast-track the planning process would provide some certainty to landholders sooner than the original timeframe, which had a decision scheduled for the second half of the year.
"A commitment to make a decision within four weeks of what land is needed and the potential for existing defence land reserves will mean that affected landholders will have this 'proposal' hanging over their heads for more than eight weeks instead of eight months or more."
Mr Mahar acknowledged today's visit by Minister Payne to Rockhampton.
"We thank Minister Payne for making the issue a priority matter of business on her first day back at work from leave."
"We were also buoyed by the Ministers' comments that she'd like to see agricultural used for farming purposes and call on her to play a role in safeguarding our farming land by ruling out the compulsory acquisition."
Mr Mahar said the NFF and AgForce would continue to consult with Minister Payne and Defence officials on the progress of the Master Plan.
“The NFF has made it clear to the Minister that open lines of communication on this initiative is a must. We would like to be provided with a report of the Government’s determination as soon as practicable, so that landholder uncertainty can end.”
“I expressed in no uncertain terms to the Minister that had landholders, AgForce and the NFF been properly consulted before letters were sent, the angst felt by farming families could have been lessened.”
"In the meantime the uncertainty continues for the affected members," Mr Mahar said.
Mr Mahar called on Australians to demonstrate their support for affected landholders and communities by logging on to www.farmers.org.au/defendourfarms to send an email to Minister Payne urging her to take compulsory acquisition off the table.