Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today got an exclusive first peek at new Scott Base redevelopment plans a week after her Government signed off on a third-of-a-billion-dollar-makeover funding package.
Ardern's Government announced in last week's Budget a long-overdue upgrade of Scott Base will get nearly $350m in funding to ensure New Zealand's continued presence on the frozen continent.
Ardern, who has twice had visits to the white continent postponed – once by the 2017 Mt Albert by-election and once by pregnancy - was in Christchurch today, New Zealand's gateway to the ice, where she received a round of applause from Antarctica New Zealand staff and personnel tuning in via video link from Scott Base.
The staff had been eagerly awaiting last week's funding news, which paves the way for the much-needed Scott Base makeover.
The Prime Minister, a self-confessed fan of early ice explorer Ernest Shackleton, praised the "critical" work done out of the Scott Base before she was given a virtual tour inside the new facility.
The video, which is now released publicly, shows a high-tech, spacious new base, built on the same location, with an accommodation, dining and welfare building, a science and management building and an engineering and storage building.
Ardern gave the plans the thumbs-up and vowed to visit Antarctica "as soon as I'm able".
The new funding covers capital investment of $306m along with operating costs of $38m, which Antarctica New Zealand will use to replace the existing base and redevelop the Ross Island wind farm.
The base, built in the early 1980s and made up of 12 buildings painted in a distinctive shade of Chelsea cucumber green, will be replaced with three interconnected buildings, accommodating up to 100 people.
"It's a modest, safe, fit-for-purpose facility to support our team on the ice, and we're chuffed," Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Sarah Williamson said.
"As with any house tour, the view is also important to factor in, and you won't be disappointed."
Windows have been strategically placed, to not just take in the view, but also provide important safety information for people working at the base, including weather conditions, helicopter and people movements.
As well as future-proofing New Zealand's home on the ice, it will bring millions of dollars into the Canterbury economy, Williamson says.
New Zealand firm Leighs Construction has been awarded the lucrative – and unique – building project, which will create around 170 jobs at the peak of construction and about 700 over its six-year course, including design, construction, logistic and project management roles.
Senior project manager Simon Shelton said the interior is designed to be flexible for future needs.
"We wanted to make sure we built a base that can adapt to the changing needs of science and technology in decades to come," he said.
"These spaces get used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, so they need to be robust, safe and easy to maintain. It's function over form for this building."
New Zealand has had a presence in the Ross Dependency since 1957 - when Sir Edmund Hillary helped build the hut that preceded Scott Base - and has direct connections to the expeditions of Scott and Shackleton more than 100 years ago.