Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson says that the last-minute-to-midnight decision to close of the Macquarie Island Station just before the Antarctic Summer season is a worrying sign of the budget pressure facing the Australian Antarctic Division.
Senator Whish-Wilson said, “Successive budget cuts, year after year, to the Australian Antarctic Division has clearly led to some bases like Macquarie Island falling into disrepair and this will have contributed to them making a snap decision to close the base.
“If closure of this base was clearly on the table there should have been long and open consultation with all stakeholders about its future.
“Macquarie Island is part of Tasmania but the surrounding oceans are managed by the Commonwealth. Any change to the management and use of Macquarie Island should have been undertaken simultaneously with a review of the state and federal management plans.
"Australia has important world heritage committments to meet in this area and important collaborative research programs in the Southern Ocean, reducing our footprint in this pristine part of the planet sends the wrong message, especially on the back of the reputational damage inflicted by the recent process around CSIRO cuts"
“This closure also raises questions about the ongoing ability of the Tasmanian National Park Service to access and manage Macquarie Island and whether this is simply the Commonwealth passing the buck to the Tasmanian Government.
"We do not want to see a CSIRO cut-style decision making process leading to a catastrophic sequence of unforeseen consequences. There may be a number of international cooperative research programs put at risk by this decision.
“Right now, we do not know what the future management and access of Macquarie Island World Heritage Area looks like and we don’t know if there is sufficient budget to undertake the rehabilitation that may be needed. This sort of opaque decision-making about Australia’s Antarctic programs needs to stop,” he concluded.