Considering planning activities in Antarctica

Antarctica is a natural reserve devoted to peace and science. Find out the steps to take when planning activities in Antarctica.

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Antarctica is a natural reserve devoted to peace and science. All activities in the Antarctic Treaty area shall be planned and conducted so as to limit adverse impacts on the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems; as described fully in the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

Travelling to the Antarctic is different to travelling to other parts of the world. There are particular things you need to do to prepare, not only because the region is inhospitable and dangerous but because it’s largely untouched and pristine status needs to be preserved.

Non-government travel to the Antarctic is only possible in the summer season (1 November to 31 March). This is when there is 24 hours of daylight, water temperatures rise and sea ice melts.

The Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act 1994(external link) implements the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. The Act applies to all New Zealanders planning activities in Antarctica. Non-New Zealanders in the Ross Dependency and any expeditions organised in New Zealand or proceeding from New Zealand as its final point of departure to Antarctica are also covered. In practice, the Act does not apply to members of official expeditions of other Antarctic Treaty parties (other countries in the Antarctic Treaty).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is New Zealand’s Competent Authority (under The Antarctica (Environmental Protection) Act 1994 and Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty). You must provide MFAT with an Advanced notification of any proposed activities in Antarctica south of 60° latitude.

This advanced notification must be provided to MFAT early to give adequate time for the assessment process. After our initial advice you will then be required to submit your full application (Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of your proposed activities). Your EIA will be subject to expert review and considered. The Minister of Foreign Affairs makes the final determination whether an activity may be carried out, and if it can, any directions or special conditions to be applied. If approved, your activities would be issued with a Notification of approval, and any related Permits applied for. We advise the other Antarctic Treaty parties of all planned trips by October each year.

This webpage and the steps described within are a summary of the official procedures required. The full detailed procedures are provided in the New Zealand Procedures for Non-Governmental Activities to Antarctica [PDF, 4.7 MB] [pdf, 4771 KB]

Steps to take when planning activities in Antarctica

Activity organisers, both private and commercial, must take the steps 1-6 (below). If you're part of a tour party, your tour operator should advise of any special preparation you need to make. 

If you already have a Notification of approval (e.g. permission / approval / permit documentation) from another country (or are planning to submit an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to another country) you will still need to follow these steps. This is because you may need an EIA exemption from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and you may still be required to have a New Zealand National Representative accompany you.



External links

Antarctic Treaty(external link)

IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators)(external link)

COMNAP -The Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs(external link)

New Zealand Legislation(external link)

Antarctica New Zealand(external link)


Other agencies

There are many agencies involved in the Antarctic. Here are links to the ones that are most relevant for travellers to the region.

Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT)(external link)  The AHT, a private charitable trust which completes heritage conservation, with a major programme to conserve historic huts and artefacts in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. The trust seeks donations from hut visitors and has briefing material including a code of conduct for visitors.
Antarctica New Zealand(external link) Antarctica New Zealand is the agency responsible for operational management of New Zealand government supported activities in the Ross Sea region. Supporting science and environmental protection. 
Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC)(external link) The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) is comprised of 230 organisations in 49 countries and campaigns to protect the biological diversity and pristine wilderness of Antarctica, including its oceans and marine life. 
Biosecurity New Zealand(external link) Biosecurity NZ administers the Biosecurity Act, requiring permits and standards for imports of plant and animal products, and works closely with the New Zealand Customs Service on border controls. 
Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP)(external link) The CEP was established under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, to provide guidance on the Protocol’s implementation. 
Council of Managers of Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP)(external link) An international association, COMNAP was formed in 1988, and brings together governmental National Antarctic Programs. The programs are the organizations that have the responsibility for delivering and supporting scientific research in the Antarctic Treaty Area on behalf of their respective governments and in the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty.
Department of Conservation (DOC)(external link)  The Department of Conservation is the central government organisation established under the Conservation Act 1987 to conserve the natural and historic heritage of New Zealand (including New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands). 
Fisheries New Zealand(external link) Fisheries New Zealand, part of MPI, administers the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Act. There focus is the sustainability of New Zealand’s wild fish stocks, aquaculture, and the wider aquatic environment, now and for future generations.
International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO)(external link) IAATO is an industry member organisation founded in 1991 to advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic. The organisation maintains the database of trip reports by tour operators.
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)(external link) LINZ are involved in the provision of topographic and hydrographic information in the Ross Dependency, including Ross Sea charts and Notices to Mariners (advice to mariners about matters that affect navigational safety). 
Maritime New Zealand (external link) Maritime NZ provides distress and safety radio services to the Antarctic seas between 160°E and 120°W (NAVAREA XIV) and, with LINZ, provides marine warnings for this area. MSA is responsible for search and rescue over part of the area under the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)  MFAT is responsible for the policy and legal aspects of New Zealand’s activities in Antarctica. Within MFAT, the Antarctic Policy Unit coordinates New Zealand’s Antarctic policy.
The Rescue Coordination Centre NZ(external link) Coordinates New Zealand’s response to search and rescue emergencies within New Zealand’s search and rescue region. This includes the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Continent between 163°E and 131°W. This incorporates the Ross Sea. The Centre is part of the Maritime Safety Authority



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