Marlborough farmers not going down without a fight
THERE was no speculation nor any warning.
Craig and Latisha Mace were completely blind sided when they sat down to read their local paper only to discover their 25,000 acre family property may very well be acquired by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as early as next year.
Their worst fears were confirmed when a letter from the ADF appeared in their letterbox that evening.
The Marlborough couple and their two children have called Toorilla Plains home for the past 10 years but now it may be taken into the hands of the ADF and used as training grounds thanks to the Shoalwater Bay expansion.
Toorilla Plains which has been in the Mace family for over 90 years has come under threat along with 40 other Marlborough properties after the Singaporean army pledged $2.25 billion to Australia for a 25-year term, using the Australian training grounds for 18 weeks per year.
Funding is set to be used to acquire land and build infrastructure in the Australian Defence Force name which will be used by the Australian army both during and after the Singaporean contact.
Latisha who found out about the Shoalwater expansion three weeks ago said from her understanding her family's property was in the "potential acquisition zone".
"When the master plan is developed in March if the planners determine the current zones which have been allocated for the expansion aren't sufficient enough to meet the training requirements of the Singaporean army they will then acquire us."
"So at the moment we don't really know if we are going to be acquisitioned or not and the determining factor will be if they deem our country suitable for training purposes and if they require more land then what they have estimated at the moment."
The potential land acquisition has left the Mace family in limbo with the graziers unable to make any business decisions until they know for certain what the future holds for their property which may not be until June or July next year.
With "sketchy details" on what is actually happening with their futures, Latisha and Craig thought it necessary to attend a meeting with the Australian Defence Force to get their hands on some clear answers.
"What we have found since attending those meetings is a lot of neighbours are liaising with each other and sharing what was gained at those meetings," Latisha said.
"There were some things said by ADF representatives to one group that was contradictory to what was said to another group, so while the meetings answered a few questions it also raised a lot of questions as well."
With the Toorilla Plains boundary already bordering current Shoalwater Bay training grounds Craig and Latisha have always worked closely with the ADF.
The family's defence connections even reach beyond their property border with Craig sitting on the environmental advisory committee.
He regularly attends their meetings which is why the land acquisitioning came as such a shock for the family who believed they were always in the know.
"This have never been discussed, motioned, considered and it's never been implicated so it was a very big shock to us as a family and as a business," Latisha explained.
"People are very unsure about their future and we are feeling isolated because we've had no one in a political sense whose really been wanting or willing to look at the landowner's side of the story."
The impression which Latisha and Craig received from the Australian Defence Force after discussions was one they believed was lacking consideration.
"They did not have any consideration for the environmental impacts, the socio-economic impacts or the agricultural impacts which would have an effect on outer lying communities," Latisha said.
"Our business alone generates a lot of income in Rockhampton as far as us selling cattle which produces jobs at the meatworks and the transport companies, all of those are yet to be considered."
"I think the biggest let-down is the ADF haven't really looked at the kind of land they're taking," Craig added.
"It's land that is really good grazing land, really good agricultural land that they haven't even bothered to take time to investigate it yet.
"There's been no investigation as to what income comes off different land."
Even though the Marlborough family were blind sided by the news they were determined put up a fight.
"We will leave no stone unturned before we're turfed off. We've had to engage a solicitor based in Brisbane at a cost to us which we didn't budget for," Latisha said.
"We really do feel sorry for those who are included at the moment in the definite acquisitions, we can't imagine what they're going through, I wish there was more we could do."