New challenges for Australia's Antarctic Program

22 May 2001

Ice, air and marine studies and environmental management projects, including trials of alternative energy sources for Australian stations in Antarctica, are among major initiatives for the Federal Government's 2001-2002 Antarctic Program.

The Government has allocated $100.7 million for its Antarctic Program in 2001-2002.

Federal Environment and Heritage Minister Senator Robert Hill said the program is a reflection of the Government's determination to protect the Antarctic environment.

"The Howard Government is committed to protecting the Antarctic environment, including the Southern Ocean," Senator Hill said.

"The Government is also determined to support the high quality studies that will provide the information necessary to protect it.

"Such studies are essential to improve our knowledge of the important role Antarctica plays in the world's climate and weather systems.

"They also enable us to maintain a strong influence in international negotiations to ensure sustainable harvesting of the region's resources."

Following successful trials last summer, a major study of the inter-relationship of sea, ice and atmosphere around Antarctica will go ahead in 2001-2002. The study will involve use of remote sensing equipment deployed on and under the Amery Ice Shelf between Davis and Mawson stations. Middle atmosphere studies will be enhanced with the commissioning of the laser-powered LIDAR, an optical remote-sensing instrument, at Davis.

"Efforts to harness the powerful coastal winds of Antarctica for station power generation further underline the Government's determination that Australia remain a leader in the international drive to protect the environment of the region," Senator Hill said.

"The Government will continue its vigilance of the Australian fishing zone around Heard Island to provide protection from illegal fishing, supported by a strong Southern Ocean marine research program."