Opportunities for businesses in the new Australia-Antarctica air link project are being outlined at a breakfast meeting of the Tasmanian Polar network in Hobart this morning (Friday 20 May).

Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said the Australian Antarctic Division would give details of the business opportunities that would flow from the recent Australian Government announcement in the 2005–06 Budget of $46.3 million over four years to develop an Australia-Antarctic intercontinental air link.

“The air link will have spin-offs for Tasmania which is already Australia’s hub of Antarctic activity,” Senator Campbell said.

“There will be tremendous opportunities to compete for equipment and services required to develop the air link and then in the operation of the new transport system.

“It is very important now to provide business with a detailed overview of the project, the key areas of support requirements and how it will progress over the coming years.

“Our key message to business and the Antarctic community is that work on the air link has started — very soon the Australian Antarctic Division will be start the process of calling tenders and businesses need to look now at how they can become involved in this exciting opportunity.

“Feasibility studies, including runway construction trials, have already been completed.

“Work on the runway will move into full swing this coming summer season in preparation for trial flights scheduled to start in 2006–07, with a regular service due to start in 2007–08,” he said.

Senator Campbell said the Hobart-Casey air link would be a major boost to the cutting-edge work of our Antarctic scientists who are now hampered by the realities of the time it takes to travel to and from Antarctica by sea.

“The improved and more flexible access to the frozen continent will significantly enhance our world-renowned Antarctic scientific research in understanding the global climate system, protecting the Antarctic environment and undertaking work of practical, economic and national significance,” Senator Campbell said.

Note for media: The breakfast briefing to the Tasmanian Polar Network will take place at Hadley’s Hotel between 7:30 and 9am (Friday 20 May).