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Murray McCully

16 January, 2010

Commissioning of Antarctic wind farm

United States Ambassador David Huebner; Lady Hillary; Mayor Parker, ladies and gentlemen.

Nearly a century ago Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, recounted his Antarctic exploits here in this beautiful old building.

In Amundsen's day instantaneous communication with Antarctica was undreamt of. News from expeditions, whether of triumph or tragedy, travelled back slowly to the outside world with the newsmakers themselves, or the survivors of their parties.

Shortly we will be crossing live to Ross Island, Antarctica, to commission the wind farm which has been constructed over the last two years through New Zealand and American cooperation and effort.

New Zealand and the United States share a commitment to increasing the global uptake of renewable energy resources.

When I had my first formal meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington last year, I raised with her the prospect of significant cooperation between New Zealand and the United States in the area of renewable energy provision for smaller pacific island states.

She responded very positively to the suggestion and since that time we have been working to give shape and substance to this proposal.

Already significant progress is being made in relation to projects in both Tonga and the Tokelau islands.

So it is fitting we have worked so hard together to get this wind farm up and running in Antarctica - one of the world's most pristine and fragile environments.

The three wind turbines will provide clean, renewable energy that will cut the amount of diesel required to power Scott Base and McMurdo Station by 11 per cent.  

The wind farm is a major commitment by New Zealand to the joint United States-New Zealand logistics pool.

It is also a fitting symbol of our continued commitment to the greatly valued and highly successful relationship our countries share in Antarctica. 

For many years that relationship has embraced cooperation on logistics and science. Today we also work closely together to manage the challenges presented by the increasing global interest in Antarctica and its resources. 

Just over a month ago, New Zealand hosted a meeting to find ways to prevent a humanitarian and environmental disaster occurring in Antarctic waters in the event of a tourist vessel sinking or running aground. 

We are also working together to ensure that marine resources in Antarctic waters are managed sustainably, including by combating illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. 

I had the pleasure of being with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department in Washington D.C. last April when, along with the representatives of other Treaty Parties, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty, and reaffirmed our commitment to its objectives and purposes.

Representatives of 12 nations, including New Zealand and the United States, first signed the Treaty in 1959.  Today there are 47 Parties. 

Half a century later it remains a remarkable agreement, thanks to its bold vision that Antarctica should for ever be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.

As a result, the Antarctic Treaty has continued to serve as a model of successful international cooperation.

Peace, disarmament, international scientific endeavour, and the preservation and protection of living resources are the key objectives of this far-sighted document.

The Treaty was conceived against the backdrop of the Cold War. As such it is a reminder that international cooperation can be achieved even when major challenges confront, and sometimes divide, our world.

Today our scientists are at the forefront of investigations into the origins and diversity of life; the changing composition of the atmosphere, and the pace and impacts of climate change.

New Zealand and American scientists worked closely together during International Polar Year with the highly successful ANDRILL project, which produced significant new information about Antarctica's role in, and response to, climate change.

The quality of these endeavours is eloquently expressed in an inscription on the cross erected by Scott's party on top of Observation Hill on Ross Island, not far from Scott Base and McMurdo Station.

It was from this vantage point that the party watched in vain for Scott's return from the South Pole. As we know, he and his companions perished just a handful of miles short of safety.

The inscription reads simply: "to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield". 

Ambassador, distinguished guests, this is a great day for New Zealand and American Antarctic cooperation, and I offer my congratulations to all those involved in bringing the wind turbine project to fruition.

Thank you

  • Murray McCully
  • Foreign Affairs