• Simon Upton
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

New Zealand will host a meeting of Antarctic Ministers on the ice continent from 24-28 January 1999, the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hon Simon Upton, announced today.

The invitation has been extended to Ministers from all twenty-six other Consultative Parties to the Antarctic Treaty. Mr Upton, who will host and escort the group, said, "I hope that Ministers from most Consultative Parties will be able to attend. The Ministerial-on-ice will lend direction and impetus to the Antarctic Treaty System".

"In forty years there has been no ministerial meeting of the Treaty parties. The business has always been handled by officials. That has worked well up to now. But with new pressures on the Treaty and increasing scientific and tourist traffic to the continent, officials are going to need political direction and encouragement if the Treaty System is to cope with the twenty-first century's demands.

While the meeting is designed to be a fact-finding one, Mr Upton said he hoped the ice visit would provide some political momentum to the work of officials at future annual Consultative Meetings of Treaty Parties. Future work facing the Treaty Parties includes the agenda of the new Committee for Environmental Protection and the development of a Liability Annex to the Protocol.

The Ministers will be based at Scott Base and McMurdo Station. The visit will put the spotlight on the Ross Sea Region and New Zealand's role as a leading gateway to the continent.