A series of initiatives are currently underway to enhance training areas in Central and North Queensland. These infrastructure projects will not just benefit the ADF but will provide significant economic opportunities to the local regions and enhance Australia’s relationship with its key allies.

Estate and Infrastructure Group (E&IG) will undertake the enhancement and expansion of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) and the creation of a new training area in North Queensland. This work is being led by Chris Birrer, First Assistant Secretary – Infrastructure for E&IG.

A $135 million remediation program in the SWBTA is due to get underway next year and is expected to run over three years. The series of works will focus on the enhancing the Defence’s use of the training area, providing better training outcomes, while maintaining the area’s environmental values. The Shoalwater Bay Training Area will also be expanded under the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative (ASMTI), with construction set to commence next year.

The expansion is being undertaken under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian and Singaporean Governments, which will deliver enhanced training outcomes for both the ADF and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The Singapore Government will make an investment of over $2 billion in the Central and North Queensland regions.

The ASMTI will also see the creation of a new training area in North Queensland. It is proposed that a training area will be built near Greenvale, North-West of Townsville, subject to the successful purchase of land from willing sellers.

Shoalwater Bay Training Area Remediation Project
Minister for Defence, Senator Marise Payne, announced the appointment of the joint venture, FK Gardner and Downer EDI works as the Managing Contractor for the SWBTA Remediation Project in April 2018.

The work will include a new urban operations training facility, a hardened beach landing area to support amphibious operations, hardened creek crossings (important to reduce the amount of sediment washed into the ocean), upgrade work to the Samuel Hill and Williamson Airfields, improved medical facilities and an upgraded internal road network. Construction will be completed between 2019 and 2022.

“These remediation works will ensure that the SWBTA will support the ADF’s future training outcomes while preserving the area’s environmental values,” Birrer explained to ADM. “Enabling future ADF training outcomes are a key driver of the project. For example, the hardened beach landing zone will contribute to the ADF’s development of its amphibious capability. We are working closely with the Services to ensure that SWBTA is an even better training area for Defence. These construction works are informed by the ADF’s experiences of training and exercising in the area – and the lessons learned from past activities.”

The enhancements to the SWBTA will also enhance the training experiences of Australia’s allies and partners who also use the area, principally the United States and SAF. Whilst Defence is looking to deliver better training outcomes for the ADF and its allies, it is doing so in a way that meets Defence’s environmental obligations.

“Defence is aware of the high environmental values in the area of Shoalwater Bay, including its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. We will continue to place a high priority on protecting the environment, including water, heritage, native plants and animals. We are working closely with the community on environmental management at the site, including engaging with local councils, traditional owners and other interested parties.”

Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative
The Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative started with the signing of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) back in 2015 and builds on existing defence relations with Singapore. Under the CSP, Australia and Singapore will jointly develop military training areas and facilities in Central and North Queensland.

Up to 14,000 Singapore Armed Forces personnel are expected to conduct unilateral training in the two training areas, for up to 18 weeks each year. Both training areas will be owned by the Australian Government and the ADF will have priority use of the training areas.

Singapore’s armed forces have been utilising the SWBTA for their unilateral exercises for more than a quarter of a century and the expansion of the Central Queensland training area in conjunction with the new facility in the North of the state will both further develop the training relationship between the two countries and provide further benefits for the ADF.

“The Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative builds off a very positive history between Australia and Singapore, where the SAF has successfully undertaken training in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area for over 25 years. This Initiative will deepen the training relationship between our two countries,” Birrer said.

Both projects will begin in 2019 and run over a number of years, with the $2.25 billion funding expected to be spent roughly equally over both locations.

In April, Minister Payne announced that five Managing Contractors had been short-listed for the SWBTA project, comprising of the following sole bidders and teaming arrangements: Civmec Construction and Engineering with SembCorp Design & Construction; CPB Contractors with Downer EDI Works; Fulton Hogan and Decmil Australia; Laing O’Rourke Australia Construction; and Lendlease Building. An announcement regarding the successful Managing Contractor is expected in the third quarter of 2018.

“Works under the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative will be different to the works being undertaken in the remediation project,” Birrer outlined.

A range of infrastructure works will be undertaken at the two locations, with many of the activities similar to existing infrastructure in existing training areas, including perimeter fencing, access roads, fixed weapons ranges and range control facilities.

“The ASMTI is about enhancing military training areas in Australia for use by the SAF, but also by the ADF,” Birrer confirmed to ADM.

Training area expansion will ensure that the training areas meet the current and future needs of the ADF. For example, army is now utilising heavier, larger, and more capable platforms with enhanced weapon and sensor systems providing significantly increased range and fire power.

“There will be quite a range of activities and construction undertaken to support the development of training areas and ranges, which will help deliver very modern and contemporary training outcomes in support of capability for both the ADF and the SAF.

“It is critical that the design and planning of these training areas is done in a way that is also adaptable to exploiting emerging capabilities and technologies. There will also be the opportunity to introduce some new technologies, which could include the integration of digital communications, augmented reality, autonomous robotics and simulation into range development” Birrer added.

In North Queensland the new training area near Townsville will be located on a new site in Greenvale, rather than an expansion of the existing Townsville Field Training Area. While the Greenvale site has been identified in initial assessments as the one best suited to the ADF and SAF’s needs both now and into the future, Defence has identified alternative areas near Ravenswood or Pentland, should Greenvale not prove feasible.

Defence has provided offers to purchase land from willing sellers in both the Greenvale and Shoalwater Bay regions. These offers are now under consideration by the landowners.

“We will continue to work with willing sellers throughout 2018,” Birrer said.

Local Industry Capability Plans
Both infrastructure projects are maximising opportunities for local businesses to get involved in construction works. The Managing Contractors for both projects are required to develop a Local Industry Capability Plan (LICP) to ensure that local businesses in the region can take advantage of the opportunities arising from these projects.

“The construction works will not just deliver enhanced training areas, but will bring significant economic opportunities to Central and North Queensland region, creating local jobs and investment and supporting strong local industry near the training areas,” Birrer said.

Through the implementation of its LICP, the FK Gardner and Downer joint venture for the SWBTA remediation project has committed to sourcing 80 percent of its subcontractors from the Livingstone and Rockhampton local government regions that are adjacent to the training area.

“The LICP for the SWBTA remediation project is great news for local businesses in the Rockhampton area, we understand that the Managing Contractor has already been building linkages with the local workforce and working to understand the capacity of local businesses” Birrer added. “Local businesses still have to be competitive, but the project is being structured in such a way that they will have the opportunity to compete and put forward the strengths they have, in terms of being able to assist with the delivery of the project.”

Indigenous companies will also have the potential to benefit from the project, under Defence’s Indigenous Procurement Policy guidelines.

“We provide the Managing Contractor with the overall requirements of the project from a capability perspective. They will in turn hire the design services contractors to undertake the design and we’re encouraging them to deliver those design services in such a way that it maximises opportunities for local businesses,” Birrer said to ADM.

“An important part of that process is ensuring that the capacity of local industry is taken into account when the design is undertaken, and designs pitched at a level where local capacity can meet that demand and businesses have an opportunity to bid for work.”

Birrer adds that the Commonwealth Government is committed to ensuring that the level of opportunities for local business are maximised throughout the life of the projects. For example with the ASMTI project there will be opportunities for industry in the initial construction of facilities and infrastructure on the expanded training area, as well as ongoing, year on year support for the ADF and SAF over the long term.

“Over the last 18 months, Department of Defence has been engaging closely with local industry in Central and North Queensland,” the Defence spokesperson said. “For example in May, Defence hosted a networking event for local industry in Rockhampton. Over 150 businesses attended, networking with shortlisted Managing Contractors and learning how they can get involved in the SWBTA projects.”

Defence Minister Marise Payne has also been actively involved in promoting the LICP in the Central and North Queensland. Earlier this year she hosted roundtables with local businesses and the Managing Contractors in Townsville and Rockhampton. It was an opportunity to discuss the LICPs as well as practical ways that local businesses could maximise their chances to be involved in these major Defence projects.

This article first appeared in the September 2018 edition of ADM. 

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