The Director of the Australian Antarctic Division has been appointed chairman of the Antarctic Treaty’s Committee for Environment Protection, the body entrusted with developing measures to protect Antarctica’s unique environment.

Dr Tony Press was elected to the position at the 25th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting of the Antarctic Treaty nations, which concluded in Warsaw last week. Dr Press has been elected for a two-year period and takes over from Norway’s Dr Olav Orheim.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone, congratulated Dr Press on his appointment, saying that it was recognition of Australia’s leading role in Antarctic matters.

“As a scientist and head of our national Antarctic Program, Dr Press is uniquely qualified for this critical post,'' Dr Stone said.

“I am delighted that through the appointment of Dr Press, Australia’s leadership in Antarctic environmental protection is recognised.”

The Committee for Environment Protection’s (CEP) agenda includes conservation of Antarctic flora and fauna, waste management, prevention of marine pollution, environmental impact assessment and development of the Antarctic protected area system.

One of the most important tasks of the CEP is to ensure that the Treaty’s environmental protection Protocol is properly understood and that decisions made under the Treaty recognise the environmental implications.

Dr Press took up his appointment last week and holds the position until at least 2004.