Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said Defence has begun a three-year hazard reduction project to remove old unexploded bombs on three islands west of Darwin.
The unexploded ordnance hazard reduction project will be conducted at the Quail Island Air Weapons Range, which includes Quail Island, Bare Sand Island and Djadjalbit Island.
Mr Snowdon said the announcement comes in time for World Turtle Day on May 23rd.
“Bare Sand Island in particular, has been used for tourists and researchers to observe the turtles nesting. We’re delighted to be able to announce this hazard reduction program in the lead up to World Turtle Day.”
“We recognise that this is a valuable ecological area for turtle breeding, for Indigenous interests, tourism and recreational purposes. The hazard reduction program is designed to make the area as safe as possible for these activities,” said Mr Snowdon.
Defence has consulted with turtle experts at Charles Darwin University in relation to measures to ensure that there is no negative impact on the nesting turtles.
Defence has rated the risk of unexploded bombs in the area as substantial. The Quail Island Air Weapons Range was used for aerial bombing practice by the Royal Australian Air Force from 1945 to 1979. A number of bombs did not explode and remain buried under the sand.
Defence has maintained warning signs on Quail Island for many years and conducted bi-annual inspections to remove any bombs that may have been uncovered by tidal or wind action. As the area is no longer required as a Defence Practice Area, Defence is now considering de-gazetting the range. The hazard reduction program is an important step in this process.
Defence is working closely with the key stakeholders including the Northern Territory Government, and the Northern Land Council in relation to the project.
The first stage of a three year program of hazard reduction began earlier this month on 9 May 2011. Defence has engaged G-tek Pty Ltd, a company that specialises in finding unexploded ordnance, to locate and identify bombs on the islands. Australian Defence Force bomb experts will render safe whatever bombs are found.
“The public must realise there are still unexploded bombs that have not yet been found that are a potential danger to visitors to the island. If people don’t have a good reason to visit the area, they are being urged to stay away,” Mr Snowdon said
During the hazard reduction program, access to the area will be subject to strict conditions and negotiated on a case by case basis.
To find out more about entry restrictions, and to coordinate access, please contact: Major Geoff Robinson (02) 6266 8534 or 0419 659 426
Defence Media Operations: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664
Alice Plate (Minister Snowdon’s Office): 0400 045 999