The Australian government has cancelled the proposed aerodrome near Davis Sation (WAP AUS-Ø3) in the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT), emphasising environmental concerns but probably more because of cost and engineering difficulties. The government is likely to instead announce more remote monitoring, mapping and collation of digital information on Antarctica to bolster Australian science and our territorial claim, as recommended in a recent review of Antarctic science.
The decision to abandon the aerodrome plan means Australia is giving up an opportunity to increase its influence in Antarctic forums, boost science and expand access to the continent. That loss would be greater if China, with or without Russia, were to build on the site Australia has given up, which is one of the largest ice-free areas on the continent. Under the Antarctic Treaty, which effectively “freezes” territorial claims, Australia can’t stop other states building in the AAT.