Key international role for Gateway Antarctica

Published by Communications and Development

28 May 2009

In a first for New Zealand, the University of Canterbury's Gateway Antarctica research centre is to be the new base for a global organisation responsible for co-ordinating the Antarctic research activities of 29 nations.

The international secretariat of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP) will be based at Gateway Antarctica for the next six years.

Michelle Rogan-Finnemore
Michelle Rogan-Finnemore has been appointed Executive Secretary of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes.

Member nations, which include China, Russia, USA, the UK and India, are signatories to the Antarctic Treaty. Signed in Washington in 1959, the treaty established Antarctica as a region of peace and co-operation.

Michelle Rogan-Finnemore, presently Gateway Antarctica's Centre Manager, has also been appointed to the position of COMNAP Executive Secretary after an international search to replace the current Hobart-based executive secretary who has completed his term of office.

“I was delighted to be offered the position as the new Executive Secretary of COMNAP and it was particularly pleasing for me to be able to relocate the Secretariat Offices to Christchurch,” she said.

“In the past I worked closely in Antarctica with support from several of the national Antarctic programmes and now I am looking forward to working with all 29 national programmes in support of scientific co-operation in Antarctica.”

Created in 1988, COMNAP is the international association that brings together national Antarctic programmes from around the world to develop and promote best practice in managing the support of scientific research in Antarctica.

It is responsible for providing the Antarctic Treaty System with objective, practical, technical and non-political advice drawn from the national Antarctic programmes' pool of expertise.

UC Vice-Chancellor Dr Rod Carr said Gateway Antarctica had the expertise to be a very successful secretariat host.

“This is great news not just for the University of Canterbury – it is also great news for New Zealand. Having the secretariat based here will help raise awareness of Antarctic issues and the importance of science.”

Gateway Antarctica Director Professor Bryan Storey said hosting the COMNAP international secretariat would be a very exciting development for Gateway Antarctica.

“It truly establishes us as an international centre that will strengthen existing international connections and develop new relationships with the many countries involved in Antarctic research. It is excellent news for the city of Christchurch and reinforces the city’s position as a key gateway city to Antarctica.”

Gateway Antarctica’s work focuses on increasing understanding of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and promoting effective management. It is a focal point and a catalyst for Antarctic scholarship, which attracts national and international participation in collaborative research, analysis, learning and networking.

Lou Sanson, CEO of Antarctica New Zealand, said the New Zealand Antarctic community was delighted.

“This reinforces the international quality of the case that Christchurch City and the University of Canterbury put forward to the selection committee. The appointment will see the 29 Antarctic Treaty countries funding the office and secretariat in Christchurch. There is also potential for further Antarctic meetings to be held in the city. This honour reinforces Christchurch as a key gateway city to Antarctica.”

For further information please contact:
John MacDonald
Corporate Affairs Manager
University of Canterbury
Ph: 03 364 2910
Mobile: 021 417 289