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Funding boost for Antarctic work and education

Funding boost for Antarctic work and education

Scott Base, New Zealand's research station in Antarctica, received additional funding of $3.24 million in yesterday's Budget to meet increased running costs, Foreign Minister Phil Goff announced today.

The Budget also provided $173,000 to fund public education about the base’s history ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2007.

"The additional funding for Scott Base over the next four years is over and above Antarctica New Zealand’s current operating budget, which is $9.1 million for the 2005/2006 financial year," Mr Goff said.

“It will enable the base to maintain its high-quality support of New Zealand's Antarctic science work in the face of rising fuel costs, higher aircraft landing fees and increased staff costs.

The government is also providing a further $770,000, from 2007/8, for the international scientific drilling project (ANDRILL) that will gain valuable information about climate change over the past 35 million years.

“ANDRILL is a collaboration between New Zealand, the United States, Germany, and Italy. The four-year project will be Antarctica's most ambitious drilling project to date, and involves drilling below the ice in different sites around McMurdo Sound. At one site the team will have to drill 300 metres through the ice shelf and then a further 1000 metres to the sea floor.

"Information obtained from each site will improve understanding of Antarctica’s climate and geology. This is important research – the more scientists can learn more about past climate change, the more it will help us accurately predict the effects of future climate change on the planet."

Mr Goff said public education in the lead-up to Scott Base’s 50th anniversary would increase people's understanding of the continuing importance to New Zealand of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, as well as the valuable contribution the base has made to scientific exploration in the region.

“When Scott Base opened in January 1957 it was designed to last only a few years. Fortunately the value of Antarctic research was soon recognised and Scott Base became New Zealand’s permanent base in Antarctica.

"Today, Scott Base is managed year-round by Antarctica New Zealand and provides support services and accommodation for up to 85 people over summer, dropping to a skeleton staff of 10-14 over the winter," Mr Goff said.

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