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Government looks to boost Antarctic research funding

Published: 7:01AM Saturday January 19, 2013 Source: ONE News / Fairfax

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand may increase its funding for research in Antarctica, after arriving on the frozen continent.

"Climate change is real, it's happening faster than some people realise. We see the affects in Antarctica but New Zealand can't do it alone," he said today.

Currently, Antarctic New Zealand - which runs Scott Base - receives around $26 million a year, but has had no increase in funding for four years.

Key said today that the funding situation is likely to change.

"It's a very important place," he said. "It's such a great environment for undertaking scientific research of all sorts."

Key's visit comes at a time when tensions are rising over fishing resources in the region and the impact climate change is having on the continent.

ONE News Political Editor Corin Dann said Key's visit is hugely important for the Antarctic programme, and that it sends a strong signal to the likes of its US partners that New Zealand remains very committed to its operations there and its claim on the Ross Sea Dependency.

Dann also said that Antarctica has been unusually warm this year turning the ice runway to slush, forcing planes onto skis and buses onto sledges.

"There's a bit of a pattern here, I don't know if its climate change or variability," said Lou Sanson.

South Pole visit

Meanwhile, showing no ill effects from the health scare that cast a shadow over his trip yesterday, Key is still holding out hope that he can visit the South Pole during his visit to Antarctica.

Whiteout conditions prevented Key and his wife Bronagh from flying to the Pole today.

Key told ONE News that he is hoping to squeeze in a quick round trip to the Pole on Monday morning before returning to New Zealand late on Monday night.

Instead, Key visited the US base at McMurdo and a New Zealand-run windfarm that is providing a large amount of power to both Scott Base and the American base.

The three turbines, which cost around $12 million to develop, were put up in partnership with Meridian Energy.

Later tonight, three bottles of Ernest Shackleton's 100-year-old Whisky will be formerly returned to the Antarctic Heritage Trust after having travelled to Scotland for testing and re-creation.

The bottles were among three crates of whisky found in 2010 under explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's only Antarctic expedition base.