Any port in a storm as new home pitched for icebreaker

Western Australia is open to being the home of the nation's Antarctic program amid a stoush between the federal government and Tasmania over critical wharf upgrades.

Hobart is the current home of the program and port for Australia's $528 million resupply and scientific researcher icebreaker Nuyina.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek recently wrote to Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff citing concerns about stalled talks over upgrades to the wharf where Nuyina docks.

She described a TasPorts' estimated price tag of more than $515 million over 30 years as exorbitant.

The Nuyina at a Hobart wharf.
The Nuyina at dock in Hobart. (AP PHOTO)

While the federal government was committed to Hobart remaining the "gateway" to Antarctica, the Tasmanian government agencies were standing in the way, she said.

Meanwhile, WA Ports Minister David Michael has left the door open for the state to be the home of the Antarctic program and Nuyina.

"We look forward to any approach from the federal government in relation to future arrangements for the Australian Antarctic Program," he said in a statement.

There has, however, been no formal approach to WA from the federal government.

Mr Rockliff on Thursday told state parliament he would speak to Ms Plibersek in coming days.

"We expect the Australian government to remain committed to Hobart and invest accordingly," he said.

"We won't sit idly by and let the federal Labor government threaten Tasmania and Tasmanians."

The overtures from the WA government has concerned the Tasmanian Polar Network, which represents 70 organisations.

It has since urged the Tasmanian and federal governments to come to an agreement.

Network chair Richard Fader said the Antarctic sector contributed more than $180 million annually to Tasmania's economy and employs nearly 1000 people.

He said delays in the upgrades could lead to other nations questioning whether Hobart was the preferred base for their East Antarctic operations.

"The importance of quality infrastructure to support the Australian Antarctic program is imperative," Mr Fadar said, adding he had "concerns" about WA's interest given the potential economic loss.

"The (network) has been respectful of the commercial negotiations between the Australian Antarctic Division and TasPorts for a wharf and logistics facility to berth the Nuyina.

"Unfortunately, it has become apparent over the past few weeks that politics have begun to compromise these negotiations."

TasPorts CEO Anthony Donald previously said the organisation was committed to keeping the Nuyina and ready to continue negotiations on fair terms.

"The costs are reflective of the detailed design works, which are specific and a bespoke request by the (division)," he said.