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Antarctic proposal one of ten National Science Challenges

1 May 2013

Antarctic proposal confirmed as one of ten National Science Challenges

Prime Minister John Key and Hon Steven Joyce, Minister of Science and Innovation, today announced the final 10 National Science Challenges. The ten research areas identified as New Zealand's first National Science Challenges include the Antarctic proposal:

The Deep South – understanding the role of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean in determining our climate and our future environment.

When asked to comment on the National Science Challenges announcement at noon today, Rob Fenwick responded "As chairman of Antarctica New Zealand and the newly created New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI) I'm delighted that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean has been recognised in this first tranche of National Science Challenges. It is particularly satisfying for me to see that an organisation established less than a year ago has been able to step-up and secure this level of recognition.

That in itself speaks to a number of things. Firstly, the foresight and generosity of organisations that have made NZARI happen, such as the Aotearoa Foundation and Air New Zealand. Secondly, the strengths of the NZARI governance team which includes internationally acclaimed scientists and researchers. And thirdly of the significance of the science research programme that the NZARI Director, Professor Gary Wilson, is pulling together and its relevance to the New Zealand economy."

NZARI, Antarctica New Zealand, their respective Board of Directors and key stakeholders collaborated to produce the Antarctic National Science Challenge proposal. The proposal explains the importance of the Antarctic Continent to the global systems but also why we as New Zealanders will be amongst the first to feel the effects of the changes there.

Director of NZARI, Professor Gary Wilson, is currently overseas but on hearing the news of the announcement said "This [announcement] recognises that New Zealand sits within a global system and that understanding the processes that drive our climate and ocean from beyond New Zealand need urgent attention in order to enable us to plan for the changes that will impact New Zealand, its natural environment and economy.

It also recognises that New Zealand is uniquely placed to lead the world in understanding the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in driving this change. As a maritime nation, New Zealand will be one of the countries most impacted by changes in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

The New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute was established, by Antarctica New Zealand, last year to bring New Zealand Research expertise together from across our Universities and Crown Research institutes to address the challenge of how Antarctica and the Southern Ocean will respond to global warming and, in turn, how this will impact New Zealand and New Zealanders."

To achieve the Challenge's goals Antarctica New Zealand will need to refocus their efforts to support "Deep South" to include blue-water research capability, which could be achieved through a collaboration with SOOS (Southern Ocean Observing Systems), ship-based opportunities with other national programmes and increasing Ross and McMurdo Ice Shelf traverse capability.

On hearing the announcement Antarctica New Zealand CEO, Lou Sanson, explained "This significant announcement enables Antarctica New Zealand to work with many other countries working in the Ross Sea region and to coordinate research platforms with Australia, the United States, Korea and Russia to answer some of these key science questions and also with SOOS, a newly established international collaboration.

It also recognises the key role that Antarctica plays in international diplomacy through science and we very much look forward to providing the logistics and operations for NZARI to operate in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and to make all this work."

This is a very exciting time for the Antarctic Science community and the success of the "Deep South" Challenge will be at the forefront of everyone's mind at the 'Strategic Science in Antarctica' conference to be held at the University of Tasmania in Hobart from 24-28 June 2013.

This inaugural conference is a direct result of collaboration between Antarctica New Zealand and the Australian Antarctic Division and will feature a number of New Zealand's top Antarctic scientists and researchers who, together with their Australian counterparts, will give keynote addresses, science presentations and exhibit posters as well as new up-and-coming researchers and scientists.

ENDS

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