A detailed study of Australia’s Macquarie Island research station has found that renovating rather than replacing the current station delivers the best value for money within the budget and meets the long-term needs of the Australian Antarctic Program.

A project to upgrade the sub-Antarctic island’s station began in 2016, when the Federal Government committed $50 million to secure the future of the facility and scientific research on the island.

Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) Director Kim Ellis said a two-year planning phase has concluded the preference is to renovate existing buildings and decommission older infrastructure.

“The cost of building an entirely new station would have been greatly in excess of the budget due to the complexities of working in a remote and largely inaccessible sub-Antarctic location,” Mr Ellis said.

“The Island is an important global site for scientific research including monitoring Southern Hemisphere weather and climate.”

“Renovating the current buildings will ensure the Macquarie Island station is functional and able to support long term science for all key stakeholders including the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and the Tasmanian Government.”

The renovation will be overseen be a team of AAD tradespeople and will include:

  • Consolidating the station area and reducing the total number of buildings on the island from the existing 48 buildings;
  • Renovating core buildings in the station to ensure ongoing year-round operation of station and field based research activities;
  • Decommissioning the older redundant buildings;
  • Refurbishing three of the six field huts;
  • Assessing ways of protecting the station from ocean inundation;
  • Removing asbestos from all buildings.

“The renovation will ensure a safe and comfortable operating environment for our expeditioners living on Macquarie Island for at the least the next two decades.”

Due to COVID-19 the AAD will focus solely on resupplying stations and changing over teams this summer and work on Macquarie Island is not expected to begin until 2022.

It’s envisaged the station renovation will take up to 7 years to complete.