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Gamechanger: Australian leadership for all-season air access to Antarctica

By Jeffrey McGee, Marcus Haward and Anthony Bergin

Next year, the Australian Government will decide on whether to commit funding for a proposed year-round, paved aerodrome near the Australian Davis research station in East Antarctica. An all-weather, year-round, paved runway near Davis would have huge positive impacts on Antarctic science and logistics in East Antarctica, where there are no equivalent facilities. It would be the only paved runway in Antarctica.

As with any major piece of infrastructure development, there’ll be inevitable environmental impacts from the construction and operation of the Davis aerodrome. However, we believe that with care, it should be possible to design, construct and operate a facility that satisfies both operational requirements and environmental obligations under the Madrid Protocol and relevant Australian legislation.

If Australia doesn’t proceed with the aerodrome, another country may step into our shoes and take a similar proposal forward. It might be a country with lower standards of environmental assessment and a lesser track record of environmental protection in Antarctica. The Davis aerodrome project requires long-term funding and political commitment.

Failing to proceed with the proposal would weaken our influence in Antarctica: it would allow other states to take advantage of the opportunity for logistical and scientific leadership in East Antarctica. The proposed Davis aerodrome will increase Australia's strategic weight in Antarctica, where we claim 42% of the continent.