SURROUNDED: Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon talks with grazier Rick Bowman about the proposed Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area expansion.
SURROUNDED: Federal shadow agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon talks with grazier Rick Bowman about the proposed Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area expansion. Kerri-Anne Mesner

Defence department moves in as properties sell

RICK Bowman will have the Defence Force as neighbours on two sides of his property Lorna Vale at Marlborough.

The long-term Central Queensland grazier moved to Lorna Vale more than 20 years ago.

It is currently home to Rick, his wife Barbara, their son James, James's wife Jo and Rick's parents Frank and Fay.

James and Jo were married at Lorna Vale in January last year.

In January 2017, Rick told The Bulletin the Department of Defence's Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area expansion plans included two-thirds of Lorna Vale - 4249.1992 hectares - including the houses and sheds.

 

 

Now, Rick says Defence has bought two neighbouring properties to the north of Lorna Vale which had belonged to the Olive family.

"It's no secret the ones around here which sold," Barbara said.

According to the Bowmans, they have heard other owners who sold, along with the properties outlined in the Livingstone Shire Council map, include Clint and Pip Rea, Hewitt Cattle Company and the Smith family who owned Strathmuir at Ogmore.

Ms Rea spoke with The Morning Bulletin back when the Defence Department planned to take properties under "compulsory acquisition", a decision overturned by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull weeks later (February 6, 2017).

At the time, the Reas were running 1000 head of cattle at their Kunwarara property "Hillview" which had been owned by the Rea family since 1993.

"Make no mistake, this is not something we have initiated nor desired. This is an action that has been imposed on us from an external source. We are staring into the unknown and the scene is frightening and challenging," Pip said in January 2017.

She did not return The Bulletin's call this week.

Rick said Defence rang and asked if they wanted an evaluation done, which they declined, and they haven't heard from them since.

The former Biloela resident said there was no land of equal quality to buy in Queensland if Lorna Vale was sold due to the long-standing state-wide drought.

He said he doesn't like the "cold", so buying further south was not an option.

The Geddes family have owned Couti Outi for 140 years. Half of their property was eyed off by Defence in the original land acquisition plans but they have not sold.

 

The Bulletin was unable to contact Lawson Geddes Snr for an update about negotiations but believes the Geddes' position hasn't changed since early 2017.

At that time they didn't want to sell any of their 15,400ha where they run about 4000 head of cattle.

Alf Collins, another grazier who had property eyed off by Defence, told The Bulletin a day or two before Mr Turnbull's "no compulsory acquisitions" decision that he had been told by Defence negotiators that he had no option, to go home and get his accountant and lawyer "teed up".

He had done calculations based on the area Defence was interested in and worked out Rockhampton would lose $37.5 million a year, based on the estimated 70,000 cattle from the land grab area along with about 25,000 head sold a year.

A piece of meat, which started at $3 at the farm rate, usually ended up costing $21 by the time it reached the table, Mr Collins said.

The Bulletin was unable to contact Mr Collins this week.

Livingstone Mayor Bill Ludwig said landholders had told him they were still in negotiations with Defence.