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Antarctic marine park less likely: Minister

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The Federal Environment Minister has conceded it is unlikely a new marine reserve in East Antarctica will be signed off by international delegates meeting in Hobart.

Greg Hunt says Australia wants to secure the 1.6 million square kilometre reserve, but debate at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has made it clear many other nations do not.

The minister was due to meet delegates in Hobart but was not confident of changing their minds.

He believes a compromise will be a more likely outcome.

“Let’s see if we can get a staged approach and get something off the ground as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr Hunt has also released the terms of reference for a plan to expand Australia’s presence in Antarctica and preserve the continent.

The plan will focus on international cooperation, operational resources and the development of Hobart as an Antarctic science hub.

Mr Hunt says a key focus will be stimulating economic development in the city.

“Our objective, take what is already the case in Hobart, we build on the resources here but that Hobart becomes the global centre for science and refuelling and logistics for Antarctica.”

Mr Hunt says the review will inform the timing and process of acquiring a replacement for the ageing Aurora Australis supply ship.

“There’s no question in my mind that it will continue and there won’t be a gap,” he said.

“Part of my duty is to make sure that experts such as Tony Press give us an overview as to the best way forward in terms of getting over the next 20 years the maximum bang for buck.”