Conservation Minister Nick Smith today inspected the site of a proposed new research station to be named after the late Sir Peter Blake on the east coast of the main Auckland Island in the subantarctic.
“There is a strong case for increased climate change research on these remote New Zealand islands. This proposed station would fill a gap in the global network of stations monitoring climate change. This is particularly important as the subantarctic Islands are within the latitudes where the change in climate is expected to be seen most rapidly, and the main Auckland Island has been identified as the best area for studying deep sea currents in the southern ocean,” Dr Smith says.
The Blake Station will consist of a new floating jetty at the head of Smiths Harbour, two accommodation blocks for long-term stays, one block for short-term stays of up to 14 people, a block for two wet labs and a boat shed. It is expected to cost $3 million.
“This proposed research station fits within the Government’s Deep South Science Challenge which aims to increase the understanding of the role of Antarctica and the southern ocean in determining our climate and our future environment. The consortium proposing the new station includes NIWA, the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute, and the Universities of Otago and Victoria,” Dr Smith says.
“It is entirely appropriate that this proposed new station be named the Blake Station given Sir Peter Blake’s lifelong commitment to the cause of marine conservation.
“This research station would also have benefits for DOC which currently has no permanent base on the main Auckland Island despite it being larger than all the other sub-Antarctic islands put together.
“The Government’s conservation goal is for all of the subantarctic Islands to be pest-free. The last and most difficult job will be eradication of the pigs, cats and mice off the main Auckland Island. This total pest control programme would be five times larger than any previous eradication attempt, and the research station would reduce the costs and improve the chances of success of this ambitious project.”
The Subantarctic Islands have the highest protection possible as a national nature reserve. They are also a World Heritage Area. The proposed research station will require a nature reserve permit, a resource consent and a building consent, for which DOC has responsibility as the designated local authority. The most complex issue will be the design of grey and black water disposal in a very cold climate and in such a pristine environment.
DOC expects the applications for the permit and consents to be lodged this autumn, and construction could begin next summer.
“New Zealand has responsibility for the fourth largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world, much of which is in the Southern Ocean. This proposed research station will help us step up our science and conservation efforts and ensure our vast oceans are well-managed,” Dr Smith concluded.