Australia’s leading role in studying how to reduce the impact of human activity in the Antarctic was an indication of how seriously it took its obligation to protect the polar environment, the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone, said today.

Dr Stone was speaking on the eve of an international meeting in Hobart this week of about 100 scientists and technical experts, who will be pooling their knowledge of contamination in icy environments.

“It is essential as part of our commitment to looking after Antarctica that we seek information on contamination of freezing ground from people with long-term experience of this, such as are found in far-northern countries,” Dr Stone said.

“Australia has the opportunity this week to present to the world its human impacts research in the Antarctic and while also ensuring we are equipped with current knowledge and ideas from around the world.

“Beginning the process of putting together international guidelines that will advise on acceptable levels of contamination and how best to clean it up is an important aim of this meeting.

“I look forward to seeing practical outcomes from the conference that will benefit Australian operations as soon as next summer,” Dr Stone said.

The Third International Conference on Contaminants in Freezing Ground, which will be opened tomorrow morning by the Lieutenant-Governor of Tasmania, Mr Justice Cox, will extend until Thursday 18 April. Dr Stone will officially close the meeting on Thursday evening.