The Government of New Zealand has halted the Antarctic Patrol Ship Project, citing budgetary shortcomings stemming from expenses incurred in the fight against COVID-19, it was reported.
New Zealand's Defense Ministry said it has suspended plans to build an Antarctic and Southern Ocean patrol vessel after it was determined that the national budget had been severely dented by the sanitary crisis.
The MoD had in mid-2021 issued a request for information on the cost and potential design of a Southern Patrol Ocean Vessel, reinforced to cope with ice. A business case for ordering the ship had been expected to go before the government in 2022 for approval.
According to New Zealand's Defense Assessment 2021 report, the Southern Ocean and Antarctica were becoming increasingly strategically important, and the continent was a potential location for a range of military and security-related activities.
Due to the impact COVID-19 has had on the fiscal environment and emerging personnel pressures from other projects, this work has been deferred, Michael Swain, deputy secretary for Defense Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Defense was quoted as saying.
Swain said if the project were to go ahead in the future, there would likely have to be a new tender for information on build costs and design.
New Zealand's Royal Navy has only one ship that is polar class, the HMNZS Aotearoa, a vessel that is a tanker and replenishment ship and also undertakes operations in Asia and the Pacific.
In documents released in 2021, the proposed Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel was billed as enhancing the ability of the New Zealand Government to maintain a presence, undertake enforcement activities and support science outputs, in the environmentally demanding conditions of the Southern Ocean and Ross Sea.
Australia last month approved spending A$804 million (US$ 595 million) to buy drones and helicopters and set up mobile stations in Antarctica to strengthen its presence there.
New Zealand's Ministry of Defense said it didn't have a timeframe for when or if the project would be resumed.
The country is also going through a crisis beyond Antarctic concerns. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Monday accepted the country New Zealand has a cost of living crisis and announced the Government will cut 25 cents a liter off fuel and road user charges for three months and halve the price of public transport for the same amount of time to help ease the financial pressure at pumps. You can call it a crisis, an emergency, a shock. The point is, we need to do something about it, Ardern said.
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