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Antarctic Heritage Trust Function - PM Speech


Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister



Beehive Theatrette

4.30 – 5.30 pm
Tuesday 12 September 2000
I am pleased to welcome everyone here today for a presentation by the Antarctic Heritage Trust regarding its plans for safeguarding the heritage of the early explorers in and around the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

Antarctica is a special place for New Zealanders. It has long been a destination for our explorers and scientists and of course the area of Antarctica to our south, the Ross Dependency, is constitutionally part of New Zealand.

New Zealand's long involvement with Antarctica, dates from the earliest days of its so-called "heroic era of exploration". During the nineteenth century, a succession of Antarctic explorers used New Zealand as their final stopover before heading south in search of the unknown southern continent. These included d'Urville in 1837, Balleny in 1838, Wilkes in 1839 and Ross in 1840. But interestingly it was a New Zealander, Alexander Von Tichellman, who in 1895, as a member of the whaling expedition, claimed to be the first person ashore at the historic first landing at Cape Adare, in the Ross Dependency.

In the twentieth century New Zealand ports continued to be the favoured jumping off point for Antarctic expeditions and substantial assistance was given by New Zealand to the famous expeditions led by Scott and Shackleton. New Zealanders took a great interest in these expeditions in which New Zealand scientists and crew also participated. One of these was Frank Worsley, a comparatively unknown but remarkable New Zealander who was Shackleton's captain and navigator on the Endurance. He played a vital role in the great open boat journey from the frozen pack ice of the Weddell Sea to South Georgia after the loss of the Endurance - an inspiring story of human endeavour which I understand is shortly to be released as a movie.

This early interest of New Zealanders in the Antarctic has never diminished. Following on from our management of early whaling in the region, New Zealand established a territorial claim to the Ross Dependency in 1923. Subsequently a base was established on Ross Island in 1957 and New Zealand scientists and support staff have been on the ice continuously ever since.

New Zealand was one of the original signatories to the Antarctic Treaty, which came into effect in 1961 with the aim of promoting an environment of international co-operation in Antarctica and preserving and protecting its natural environment. For the foreseeable future Antarctica's international status as a "natural reserve devoted to peace and science", together with New Zealand laws which require all our own Antarctic activities to be thoroughly consistent with environmental protection, should ensure the region remains pristine.

Up until now the remoteness of Antarctica and its harsh climate have largely provided natural protection but today there are diminishing barriers. Pressure is growing for increased tourist visits to the region and further exploitation of the Southern Ocean. This week, in The Hague, Antarctic Treaty parties are meeting to advance a New Zealand-led initiative to develop more protected areas in Antarctica and a liability regime for environmental clean-up, in order to identify the true costs of human activity there. New Zealand has an important role to play in the wise management and protection of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean. Our proposal for the first ever Antarctic marine biodiversity reserve (around the Balleny Islands in the Ross Sea) is an example of what we hope to see achieved.

Alongside this context of preservation of the natural environment of Antarctica for the benefit of all humanity, there is also a desire to preserve the relics of the age of heroic endeavour and adventure in the Antarctic. The legends of the early explorers continue to fascinate and to capture the imagination of new generations. I am told that a visit to the historic huts of these early expeditions can be a very moving experience and I am look forward to visiting them myself this year.

Since 1987 the management of the huts has been undertaken by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. The Trust is a New Zealand based organisation but as a reflection of the international interest in the historic huts and sites in the Antarctic it numbers amongst its trustees the official representatives to New Zealand of the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. I am very pleased to welcome both Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun and High Commissioner Martin Williams here this evening, along with the other members of the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

We look forward to learning more about the Trust's plans for historic preservation of the Antarctic relics.


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