Following the Australian federal elections in September the Australian Antarctic Division is now part of the Department of the Environment under Federal Environment Minister the Hon. Greg Hunt, MP. The new government has commissioned a 20 year Australian Antarctic Strategic Plan, which will be developed by Dr Tony Press, CEO of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC). The government has also promised $24 million over three years to fund a new centre for Antarctic and Southern Ocean research, based in Tasmania. A further $38 million will extend the runway at Hobart Airport, increasing the capacity for long range logistical supply.
20 year Antarctic Strategic Plan
Environment Minister Greg Hunt launched the Terms of Reference for the 20 year Australian Antarctic Strategic Plan during a visit to Hobart in October. The plan, to be developed by Dr Tony Press, CEO of the ACE CRC, will address the following issues:
- The strategic importance of Australia’s Antarctic interests.
- Expanding the role of Tasmania as the gateway for Antarctic expeditions and scientific research.
- Ensuring robust and reliable access to the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) and extending Australia’s reach across the AAT.
- Undertaking nationally and globally significant science.
- Exercising influence in the region through the Antarctic Treaty system.
‘The Government is committed to building on Australia’s proud Antarctic legacy by ensuring we remain engaged, active and visible as a leading Antarctic nation and by further expanding Tasmania’s position as a centre for research and Antarctic services,’ Minister Hunt said.
‘With a leading presence in Antarctica for more than 100 years it is a critical time to look at how we strengthen Australia’s scientific research and maintain our strong presence.
‘Hobart is already a major hub of Antarctic research. Dr Press will recommend options to build on this and further stimulate economic, social, research and policy benefits deriving from Tasmania’s status as an Antarctic gateway.’
Dr Press is due to complete the report by July 2014.
The Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre received $25 million in funding in this year’s Federal Government budget to continue its world class climate change research. The funding will be provided over five years from 1 July 2014. The Australian Government also provided $9.4 million for the operation of Australia’s Antarctic and subantarctic stations, and $7.9 million to maintain the ageing icebreaking ship, Aurora Australis, and explore options for her replacement.