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Antarctic and Southern Ocean stories

Hobart’s Antarctic vision

Edition 196_EmpPenguins

As Hobart excitedly prepares for the second Antarctic Festival, a recent Senate Inquiry unveiled a bold vision for the city as the gateway to the frozen continent.

It visualises the southern capital not only as a world leader in Antarctic science, but also as a base for tourism to the icy continent.

The Federal Government inquiry into Australia’s Antarctic interests, recently tabled its final report and concluded: “Given the Australian Government’s commitment to significantly increasing its Antarctic infrastructure and scientific research capabilities, [Hobart] becomes Australia’s key Antarctic Gateway.”

One of the inquiry’s main recommendations is that key scientific organisations – including the CSIRO – should be co-located at an integrated Antarctic hub at Macquarie Point on the Hobart waterfront.

This would necessitate a move of the CSIRO from its current location, at Hobart’s Castray Esplanade, to Macquarie Point where it would be joined by other Antarctic organisations: CCAMLR, the Tasmanian Polar Network, Bureau of Meteorology and parts of the Australian Antarctic Division.

“The proposed hub offers the opportunity to bring key Antarctic agencies together providing innovation and collaboration opportunities,” the report said.

The Senate Inquiry also highlighted other initiatives that add to Hobart’s increasing role as a centre of Antarctic science.

Among them a permanent air-link to Antarctica, made possible by plans to build a paved runway at Davis Base that would allow year-round access; and the recently completed $40 million extension of the Hobart airport runway.

Another key component is the new ice-breaker Nuyina, which will be based in Hobart from 2020, and is set to replace the Aurora Australis.

Then there are the financial windfalls.

The Antarctic Sector is worth $442 million to Tasmania’s economy every year, and it employs more than 1,000 people. But the report leaves no doubt that this could be bigger – much bigger.

With its ideal location the inquiry recommended Hobart “as a base for outbound Antarctic tourism”.

While there are suggestions about tourist flights to the frozen continent from Hobart’s recently upgraded runway, the focus is on cruise ships heading south from the city’s magnificent deep-water port.

“Evidence to the committee suggested that an Antarctic tourism sector could be enhanced by the development of a cruise ship terminal and related infrastructure as part of the development of Hobart’s port infrastructure,” the report continued.

Tasmanian businesses that support Australia’s Antarctic endeavours are also ear-marked as having significant growth potential.

“The opportunities available within the Tasmanian Antarctic sector are broad and include infrastructure projects in shipping, aviation, and Antarctic science within the proposed Macquarie Point Development,” the report concluded.

It’s an exciting vision for Hobart, and one shared by local stakeholders.

Among them, leading businessman – and Brand Tasmania Chairman – Michael Grainger, who is convinced we are just at the start of this exciting story.

“Excuse the pun, but Tasmania has only scratched the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Grainger said.

“The Capital City of Hobart as the gateway to Antarctica is truly significant, and really important for all the right reasons. I feel very strongly that we have the ideal location, and the valuable infrastructure – the airport and our deep-water port – which are able to support both the scientific community and Antarctic tourism.”

But this is also about branding.

Mr Grainger – who runs international maritime company Liferaft Systems Australia – is excited that a CSIRO re-location would present Hobart with two incredible opportunities.

“The CSIRO’s current waterfront address is one of the best real estate sites in Hobart, and if they move it gives us the opportunity to create something really special there,” Mr Grainger adds.

“Likewise, Macquarie Point needs an iconic design that truly reflects Hobart as the Capital City gateway to Tasmania.

“This is our chance to bring structures to life that really place Hobart on the global map.”

There is no doubt that Hobart’s status as the Antarctic Gateway continues to grow, giving cause for celebration.

And that’s exactly what will happen next month, when once again the local community turns out in force for the Australian Antarctic Festival.

The inaugural biennial festival in 2016 was a great success with 40,000 participants celebrating Hobart’s Antarctic links. Organisers are confident numbers could reach 60,000 for this year’s four-day event.

“The festival is all about showing people what we do in the Antarctic, showing them how important it is, and raising support for those endeavours", Festival Director, Paul Cullen said.

“Most people have some idea of what happens there, but you can’t see it, it is over the horizon. We are going to bring Antarctica to town.”

Festival highlights include conducted tours of the soon-to-be-retired ice-breaker Aurora Australis, and the CSIRO’s research vessel Investigator. Also, an exhibition at Princes Wharf will give people the chance to see all the amazing “big Antarctic toys” – giant bulldozers, giant tractors, even a helicopter.

But just how important is Antarctica to the tight-knit community who live on its doorstep?

“Massively – and in more ways than one,” Mr Cullen says.

“As well as all the enormous economic benefits and the jobs, it is very much part of life in Hobart. There are so many people who live here who have links to Antarctica, including a large group of polar scientists.”

“Antarctica is woven into the fabric of our community.”

The 2018 Australian Antarctic Festival will be held on Hobart’s waterfront from August 2 – 5 and a full program of festival events can be found at www.antarcticfestival.com.au.

Image courtesy of Dr Frederique Olivier

View our video below on Hobart’s increasingly important Antarctic Role and the Polar Network:

Video still - Tasmania’s private sector Polar expertise
Watch video on YouTube

11 July 2018, Edition 196

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