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Antarctica dominates New Zealand's geographical position. New Zealand has a direct interest in peace and stability in the Antarctic region including the seas that surround it. It has an active scientific research programme in Antarctica, with New Zealand scientists carrying out globally significant research there. The continent also features in New Zealand's history with early explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton being among the first to use New Zealand as a gateway to Antarctica.
New Zealand has maintained its right of sovereignty over the Ross Dependency, defined as all islands and territories south of 60 degrees south latitude and between the 160th degree of east longitude and the 150th degree of west longitude, since 1923. The Ross Dependency is constitutionally part of New Zealand.
New Zealand is one of the 12 original signatories to the Antarctic Treaty. Avoiding international discord in the region depends on the continued functioning of the Antarctic Treaty through which disputes about sovereignty have been set aside.
Antarctic cooperation is an important part of New Zealand's relations with other countries. For example, New Zealand, the United States and Italy share resources by operating a joint logistics pool out of Christchurch in support of their respective Antarctic programmes. New Zealand scientists cooperate on Antarctic research with scientists from many countries.
Involvement in Antarctica offers New Zealand the opportunity to play a constructive and influential role in a region of direct interest to it, which is managed according to principles of international cooperation, environmental protection and pursuit of scientific knowledge.
The Ministry’s main roles and responsibilities for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean include:
The Ministry provides leadership and support for New Zealand’s participation in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The Ministry also advises the Government on how best to progress the principles and objectives of the Antarctic Treaty System.