Building a multibillion-dollar runway and aerodrome in Antarctica would mark Australia as an environmental vandal, opponents of the plan have warned.
Building a multibillion-dollar runway and aerodrome in Antarctica would mark Australia as an environmental vandal, opponents of the plan have warned.

Antarctic runway project plan under fire

THE construction of a multi-billion-dollar runway in the Australian Antarctic Territory would be an act of environmental destruction and serve against the nation's long-term strategic interests, the Bob Brown Foundation says.

The Australian government has proposed building a 2.7km paved runway and aerodrome infrastructure in the Vestfold Hills region of East Antarctica, near Davis Station, 5000km south of Hobart.

The runway would allow year-round access for Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A330 and RAAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster aircraft.

The Lowy Institute's website The Interpreter this week published an article entitled "the Davis aerodrome and Australia's leadership in the Antarctic".

 

There are plans for a 2.7km runway near Davis Station. Picture: Greg Stone AAD
There are plans for a 2.7km runway near Davis Station. Picture: Greg Stone AAD

 

Authors Paul Govind and Nengye Liu argue that Australia's current environmental regulations fall short of what is desirable.

"Australia has long proclaimed itself a leader in the Antarctic Treaty System which has governed the continent for more than six decades," they wrote.

"An indispensable part of this claim is advocating environmental stewardship.

'But against the backdrop of increasing incursion on Antarctica's biodiversity, and the alarming expansion of the human footprint, the proposed aerodrome, presents a conundrum: how can Australia credibly assert its leadership in maintaining the stability of the ATS while undertaking a project that carries significant risk of unprecedented, negative environmental and ecological impact?

"We suggest before carrying on a significant project such as the Davis aerodrome, the Australian government should improve its Antarctic-related legislation to ensure that environmental assessment is more sensitive to the unique Antarctic ecosystems."

They said Australia's long-term interests in Antarctica would be better served by being a leader in environmental management.

 

Davis Station from the air.
Davis Station from the air.

 

Bob Brown Foundation Antarctic campaigner Alistair Allan said Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act has been demonstrated to be inadequate and constructing the runway would mark Australia as an environmental vandal.

"The fact that the EPBC Act might not be able to properly assess the massive disturbance footprint of the Davis airport is a major concern," Mr Allan said.

"This project is estimated to increase humanity's impact on the continent by 40 per cent.

"That means that the Australian government will be responsible for almost half of all environmental impacts in Antarctica.

"If Australia's legislation can't comprehensively assess the impact of the Davis airport within the current legal frameworks, then it simply should not go ahead."

david.killick@news.com.au

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Antarctic runway project plan under fire