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Antarctic and Southern Ocean stories

Canberra invests in Antarctic gateway

Edition 171_ Aurora Australis ... into retirement at a cost of $1 billion.

The Australian Government is to spend $255 million on its Antarctic programs over the next decade and will fund a National Climate Research Centre in Hobart.

The Antarctic expenditure includes $38 million previously committed to extend the Hobart Airport runway.

The Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, said the extension would "allow for heavy lift, scientific and logistics carry into Antarctica.”

“We want this to be a base not just for Australian operations, but for other countries – whether it’s China, whether it is European nations, north American nations,” Mr Hunt said.

About $200 million will fund the general operations of the Antarctic Division based at Kingston.

The Government also plans to spend a further $1 billion to replace the long-serving Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

A $529 million contract has been signed for a new ship to be built in Romania, while a similar amount will be set aside for operational costs from October 2019.

The replacement icebreaker will be based in Hobart for its expected 30-year operational lifespan.

While these April announcements – deeply affecting Hobart’s science community – were mainly positive for the State economy, there will be net job losses at CSIRO.

The organisation will shed 275 jobs nationally, with predictions of prospective net losses in Hobart varying from 10 to 35.

The new National Climate Research Centre will absorb 40 full-time scientists to work on climate modelling and climate-change projections.

It will be funded for at least 10 years.

However, CSIRO’s Hobart-based Oceans and Atmosphere division will lose about 75 positions from a total of 140.

Nationally, losses in other divisions include about 70 in Land and Water, 45 in Manufacturing, 35 in Minerals, about 30 in Agriculture and about 20 in Food and Nutrition.

CSIRO has guaranteed the future of its Argo program that collects and distributes information on ocean temperature and salinity using a fleet of 3,000 sub-surface robotic instruments.

Funding will also be maintained for the RV Investigator research ship based in Hobart and for ice and air libraries.

In laying out its science-based agenda prior to the 2016 Budget, the Federal Government also announced plans to set up an independent National Climate Science Advisory Committee with representatives from CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and experts from Australia and overseas.

Mr Hunt said the Government wanted to ensure that Australia – and Hobart in particular – would be seen by the world as the gateway to Antarctica.

“One of the principles of the Antarctic treaty is that sovereignty is maintained and recognised through use – and in particular scientific research and a presence in the Antarctic,” Mr Hunt said.

“So our 42 per cent of territory becomes more secure with this research and this investment.

“But above all else, it’s about preserving and maintaining the majestic and natural environment of the Antarctic.”

Mr Hunt said there was "immense interest" around the world in what Australia was doing in Antarctica.

Image courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Division

3 May 2016, Edition 171

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