The Australian government has decided to invest about A$804 million ($578 million) in Antarctica. The government is planning to spend on drones and helicopters. This proposal is part of Canberra’s attempt to strengthen Australia’s interest in Antarctica. The announcement was made by their Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 22 February.
According to the Prime Minister, the money allotted would be spent over the next 10 years to upkeep the country’s strategic and scientific interests. This statement comes amid China’s increasing presence in the frozen continent.
Morrison in his statement that “The money we are investing … will enable us to explore areas of East Antarctica’s inland that no country has ever been able to reach before.”
The Australian Environment Minister Susan Ley said that the funding will ensure Antarctica “remained a place of science and conservation, and “free from conflict and which is protected from exploitation.”
Australian think thank Lowy Institute released a report in 2021, which stated that Beijing wanted to benefit economically and potentially militarily from the continent. China, according to the institute has been “increasingly assertive”, especially over fisheries.
Morrison said that drones and helicopters integrated with sensors and cameras will provide real-time feed and in turn will act as “Antarctic eye.”
The government proposes to procure four new helicopters with a range of 550 km, which can be attached to RSV Nuyina, the Australian icebreaking ship. Such helicopters will allow scientists and researchers to access inaccessible parts of the continent.
A portion of the fund will also be spent on environmental commitment, on programs such as “Cleaner Antarctica.” The stated fund will also be used for charting activities, mobile stations. About $109m would be spent on a new drone fleet, autonomous vehicles, and medium-lift helicopters.
Morrison, who faces an election, added that the investment will also add to the creation of jobs among locals.
Australia runs four permanent research centres in Antarctica and Sub-Antarctica.