The Australian Government, through the Department of Environment and Energy’s Australian Antarctic Division, own and operate the research station on Macquarie Island, in a cooperative arrangement with the Tasmanian Government.
The Australian Government’s Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan highlighted the need to urgently deal with the ageing infrastructure at Macquarie Island. The modernisation project is consistent with the action plan that included a second year (2017–18) commitment to agree on the future of the station.
The station currently operates on a year-round basis and can accommodate up to 40 personnel at peak times. Critical scientific and long-term monitoring is conducted at the station by agencies including the Australian Antarctic Division, Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), Geoscience Australia (GA) and the Tasmanian Government.
An independent engineering investigation of the current station, completed in May 2016, determined that it required significant reinvestment to ensure its continued safe operation due to the age of the infrastructure, or complete replacement. The report highlighted issues associated with occupational health and safety factors and environmental contamination, and site exposure to ocean inundation, which represented a risk to expeditioners and the Australian Antarctic Division.
On 16 September 2016, the Minister for the Environment and Energy asked the Department to provide options to continue with a permanent year-round presence on the island. On 14 October 2016, the Minister announced a commitment of up to $50 million to build a new research station on Macquarie Island.
As at June 2017, funding approval has been given and ongoing planning will take all current and future needs into consideration.