About-face on Antarctica runway

THE Australian Government, and the Australian Antarctic Division, yesterday, November 25, announced that they are abandoning plans to build a 2.7km-long concrete runway at Australian-owned Davis Research Station in Antarctica.

After a vigorous anti-runway campaign, led by The Bob Brown Foundation, the frozen continent will be saved from 115,000 tonnes of concrete.

Alistair Allan, The Bob Brown Foundation’s head campaigner for Antarctica, who has championed the protection of the continent for years, said the news is a huge backdown by the government and win for the opposing Australian scientists.

“This announcement is brilliant news for Antarctica,” Mr Allan said.

“This concrete airport was going to encase the homes of penguins, seals and petrels 
in 115,000 tonnes of concrete. 

“Now, these animals can carry on living in this precious ecosystem undisturbed.”

Federal environment minister Sussan Ley said the decision was based on the project’s significant environmental impact, complexity and a cost blowout from $2.97 billion to $4.8 billion.  

“We’re not doing this and no other country should do it, either,” Ms Ley said.

 “The impact on the environment is profound, and the cost and time extensions also meant it was not the right decision to go ahead.”

The Bob Brown Foundation claims that this unprecedented project would have increased the “human disturbance footprint” on the continent by a staggering 40 per cent.

The foundation’s founder, Dr Bob Brown, said they had been campaigning against the airport since they started focusing on the protection of Antarctica.

“To all the Antarctic scientists and expeditioners, and to the community at large,
we thank you for your amazing efforts to make your voice heard and expose just how 
destructive this concrete airport would have been,” Dr Brown said.

He believes Antarctica is facing unprecedented threats due to climate change, fishing pressures and tourism.

“This airport was one of those threats,” Dr Brown said.

“There is still lots to do to protect Antarctica and the animals that live there, but abandoning this destructive project is certainly a step in the right direction.

“This is an environmental win of global significance.”

Mr Allan, who agreed, said: “The Australian Government has done the right thing by putting the Antarctic environment first.

“This proposal should be permanently relegated to the history books,” he said.

Dr Brown also hailed Louise Crossley, a former Australian Antarctic Base Leader, who graciously donated $100,000 to The Bob Brown Foundation, allowing it to advocate for the protection of Antarctica.

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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