Australia Releases New Antarctic Action Plan
A new era of Antarctic engagement has been announced by Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt with the launch of the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan.
The Turnbull Government is providing A$255 million ($170 million) in funding over the next ten years to enhance Australia’s Antarctic logistics and science capabilities. This includes $55 million for infrastructure and $200 million for sustainable ongoing funding for the Australian Antarctic program.
The key components of the Action Plan include a state-of-the-art icebreaker for research and resupply, new operational funding to support an active Australian Antarctic program, building a deep-field Antarctic science traverse capability, exploration of a year-round aviation access options, strengthening the Antarctic Treaty system and enhancing Hobart as an Antarctic research hub and the premier Gateway to East Antarctica.
This operational advancement will ensure Australia has the necessary capability to lead science in the Southern Ocean, the Antarctic sea ice zone and around the extensive ice shelves that fringe Antarctica.
The icebreaker will deliver the science needed for the responsible management of Southern Ocean fisheries and ecosystem focused conservation, particularly of Antarctic krill—the keystone species and foundation of the Southern Ocean ecosystem.
Australia’s first Antarctic expedition, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1914, was led by Sir Douglas Mawson on board the wooden ship, SY Aurora. The Aurora Australis came into service in 1990 and has since provided essential fuel and supplies to Australia’s Antarctic stations, personnel transfer and a capable platform for marine scientific research. The vessel’s successor will have greater icebreaking and cargo capacity, increased endurance and a state-of-the-art suite of science capabilities.
The development of a deep-field overland science traverse capability and mobile research station infrastructure is essential for Australia’s involvement in major Antarctic research projects, including the quest for a million-year-old ice core. The traverse investment, combined with work towards an expanded aviation capability, will significantly improve Australia’s leadership in science and operations and offer Australia’s Antarctic program unprecedented access to and across East Antarctica, states the government.
The Australian and Tasmanian governments will continue to work to enhance Tasmania’s status as a global Antarctic research hub and the premier Gateway to East Antarctica, including the expansion of infrastructure in Hobart to accommodate the new icebreaker.
The investment delivered through the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan will allow Australia to collaborate even more closely with other countries in Antarctica on scientific research, which is of national and global significance, and continue to strengthen the Antarctic Treaty system and its critical environmental protection regime.
Under the Antarctic Treaty system, Antarctica is designated as a natural reserve, free of mining and devoted to peace, environmental protection and cooperative international science.
Australia asserts sovereignty over 42 percent of the Antarctic continent.
The plan is available here.