Budget 2021: Government pledges over $300 million for Scott Base rebuild

Author
Jamie Morton, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 May 2021, 2:42PM
(Photo / File)
(Photo / File)

Budget 2021: Government pledges over $300 million for Scott Base rebuild

Author
Jamie Morton, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 May 2021, 2:42PM

A long-overdue makeover of Scott Base has received a near-$350m Budget boost - ensuring New Zealand's continued presence on the frozen continent.

The new funding covers capital investment of $306m along with project operating costs of $38m, which Antarctica New Zealand will use to replace the existing base and redevelop the Ross Island Wind Farm.

The current base, built in the early 1980s and made up of 12 buildings painted in a distinctive shade of Chelsea cucumber green, will be replaced with three interconnected buildings, accommodating up to 100 people.

The new base, built on the same location, will consist of an accommodation, dining and welfare building, a science and management building and an engineering and storage building.

"This funding is vital to secure New Zealand's future in Antarctica and our ability to continue to support world-leading science," Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Sarah Williamson said.

"The Scott Base Redevelopment project is the biggest project we've ever embarked on, and as well as future proofing our home on the ice, it brings many millions of dollars to the Canterbury economy."

The project will provide work for around 170 jobs at the peak of construction and about 700 over its six-year course, including design, construction, logistic and project management roles.

Antarctica New Zealand's senior project manager, Simon Shelton, said the team was primed and ready to go.

"After four years of design work and careful planning, we're ready to redevelop," he said.

"The current plan is to build the new base in sections at a New Zealand port, then ship those modules to Antarctica."

New Zealand has had a presence in the Ross Dependency since 1957 - when Sir Edmund Hillary helped build the hut that preceded Scott Base - and has direct connections to the expeditions of Scott and Shackleton over 100 years ago.

"This investment through Budget 2021 will ensure Scott Base remains a place where our scientists can conduct world-leading science safely and effectively," Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.

"Their research to understand how climate change affects Antarctica, and the flow-on impacts to Aotearoa New Zealand and the rest of the world, is critically important."

She said investment in Scott Base's infrastructure, above day-to-day maintenance, was overdue.

"The outdated buildings and facilities that keep the residents alive in the coldest, driest, windiest place on earth have deteriorated," she said.

"Doing nothing would eventually lead to the closure of the base."

In 2019's Budget, Antarctica New Zealand received $18.5m to complete the developed design for the base.