Establishing a $3 million research station on the
Auckland Islands will benefit New Zealand through a better
understanding of the likely impact of climate change,
Twelve secondary school pupils from throughout the country,
including Otago Boys' High School pupil Hamish Lilley (17),
recently visited Auckland Island during a 13-day Sir Peter
Blake Trust Young Blake Expedition.
The expedition's mission was to draft a feasibility plan for
a subantarctic research station, which it is hoped will be
built on the Auckland Islands, about 700km south of Dunedin,
early next year.
The station, likely to cost about $3 million, would allow New
Zealand scientists and worldwide agencies to work together
towards understanding the effect of ocean and climate change
as the world warmed, and what the impact would be on New
Zealand's environment, biodiversity and economy, expedition
Prof Gary Wilson, of the University of Otago marine science
department, is a leading Antarctic scientist and is also
director of the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute.
The institute was leading the proposal to build the research
station, with help from the Sir Peter Blake Trust, Otago
University and Niwa, he said.
Fundraising would start this year, and an approach would also
be made to the Department of Conservation over the proposals.
HMNZS Wellington and Otago University research vessel
Polaris, the latter with eight researchers aboard,
travelled to the Auckland Islands during the recent
A team of researchers aboard Polaris had supported
participants in the Young Blake Expedition as they had
examined potential sites for the research station.
The primary site was at the head of Smith Harbour, on the
east side of Auckland Island, about 15km south of Port Ross,
a natural harbour on the island.
It was hoped the station would provide accommodation for up
to about 20 people.
Prof Wilson said although climate change was a ''key
motivator'', oceanography, ecology and conservation would
also be important elements of the proposed facility.
The subantarctic Auckland Islands lie near the northern
boundary of the Antarctic Ocean.
''Being able to monitor changes in ocean currents and fronts
as the earth warms will better enable us to predict how the
South might drive changes in New Zealand's ocean and
atmosphere,'' Prof Wilson said.
''Of all the countries in the world, New Zealand's economy is
one of the most dependent on the environment.''
If we did not understand how the environment was changing,
including its likely effects on agriculture, ''we can't
really reap the economic benefits of working with the
environment'', he said.
Representatives of the Department of Conservation, the New
Zealand Antarctic Research Institute, Niwa and Otago
University, as well as environment and business leaders, also
took part in the expedition.