The Morrison Government will protect Antarctica’s pristine wilderness by not proceeding with a decision to build a 2700m concrete runway at Australia’s Davis research station, following a detailed environmental and economic assessment.
Further investment is now planned to bolster Australia’s scientific and environmental interests in Antarctica, with announcements to be made in the near future.
The decision sends a clear message about Australia’s commitment to due process and robust environmental assessment.
The detailed environmental and economic assessment will help inform future investment in new scientific, environmental and strategic capabilities that better serve Australia’s national interest and protect the environmental values that underpin the Antarctic Treaty System.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said final approval from the Commonwealth Government was always contingent on a final investment decision next year and careful consideration of the environmental impact, economic investment and broader national interest considerations.
“All nations need to place the Antarctic environment at the absolute centre of decision making and respect the Treaty system,” Minister Ley said.
“The Government is now considering further investments in our scientific research and environmental programs in Antarctica that continue to create jobs and investment for Tasmania, the international gateway to East Antarctica.
“Over the last five years the Government has thoroughly researched the runway option in a way that has greatly increased our understanding of this unique terrestrial and marine environment, which will help inform our future investment.
“It is now clear that higher projected costs, potential environmental impacts, and the complexity of a 20-year construction process in an extreme and sensitive environment, are such that we will now focus on alternative options for expanding our wider Antarctic Program capability.
“There will be significant announcements on Australia’s enhanced capability in the near future while we continue to protect the environment and create jobs.”
The Australian Antarctic Program continues to operate its intercontinental ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome through summer with enhanced maritime support from the state-of-the-art RSV Nuyina now based in Hobart.
“Our $1.9 billion investment in the Nuyina, the world’s most advanced polar research vessel, already increases our strategic presence across the continent through its ability to support medium-lift helicopters, and semi-autonomous vehicles,” Minister Ley said.