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The Commonwealth government has released the report of a review by Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM into coexistence arrangements in the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), South Australia.
The government has announced that it supports the findings and recommendations of the Review of the Woomera Prohibited Area and thanked Dr de Brouwer for his work in preparing the report.
Assistant Minister for Defence David Fawcett said that the WPA would remain a critical national security asset, “The WPA is one of the few places in the world where the capabilities of next-generation warfare systems such as hypersonics, fifth-generation fighters, electronic attack capabilities, and a wide range of defence science activities can be tested.”
The WPA is a globally unique military testing range. It covers 122,188 square kilometres in north-west SA, about 450 kilometres north-west of Adelaide. It is the largest land testing range in the world, and the WPA is mainly SA Crown land covered by pastoral leases, exploration and mining tenements and native title.
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said that in addition to Defence activities, the WPA has significant Aboriginal cultural and heritage value, as well as being important for scientific research, environmental and tourism activity.
“The government is committed to coexistence in the WPA. While Defence requirements will continue to take precedence, the area will remain open to other activities on a case-by-case basis, such as mineral exploration and the development of new mines,” Minister Canavan said.
Dr de Brouwer’s review included 12 recommendations, such as:
- Building on the success of current arrangements, contemporary coexistence in the WPA should focus as much on strong and productive relationships as on sound legal and policy frameworks;
- Defence and the SA government should employ a collaborative co-design process to determine the feasibility of a more flexible grid-based arrangement for the WPA green zone;
- All users of the WPA should give greater emphasis to managing the introduction and use of technology in the area;
- To manage the risks to national security associated with investment in the WPA, a key consideration for Defence when it assesses WPA access applications should be whether companies have substantive Australian ownership, control and influence; and
- Defence and Aboriginal groups in the WPA should continue to build on their already strong relationships.
The WPA is a prohibited area regulated by legislation and is a Defence premise used for the testing of war materiel under the management of the Royal Australian Air Force. The WPA is an important Defence capability and testing and evaluation asset that plays a significant role in Australia’s national security.
The WPA comprises extensive lands north of the Indian Pacific railway, from north of Watson in the south-west up to its north-west corner in the Great Victoria Desert (which stretches across the SA-WA border), across to Coober Pedy, and west of Roxby Downs down to Woomera in the south-east.
The review gave clearer guidance to non-Defence users seeking to access the WPA and proposed appropriate security measures and safeguards.
Dr de Brouwer has over 30 years of experience in public policy and administration. He was secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy from 2013-17, following senior positions in the Prime Minister’s Department, Treasury, Australian National University (as a professor of economics) and the Reserve Bank.
The SA government also played a key role in shaping the review’s outcomes. Continued close co-operation with WPA stakeholders would also be required as Defence leads implementation over the coming months.
From: Defence Connect
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