New Zealand signs MOU with German institute on Antarctica cooperation

(Reuters) - New Zealand said on Saturday that its Antarctic agency signed a memorandum of understanding with Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute to foster cooperation between the two polar science bodies, amid China's growing presence in Antarctica.

"Antarctica is of increasing geostrategic and scientific interest, and this arrangement will broaden connections between our marine and polar science institutes," New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a press release.

Peters and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, in Auckland on an official visit to New Zealand, witnessed the MOU's signing, according to the release.

The deal comes after New Zealand in February said it was reassessing a proposed overhaul of its decades-old Antarctica base after talks with a construction firm stalled. In 2019, New Zealand announced plans to revamp the base but since then projected costs have surged by more than 50%.

The Antarctic, due south of New Zealand and Australia, is increasingly crowded, with China opening its fifth research base there in February. Western governments are worried China's increased presence in the Antarctic and Arctic could provide the People's Liberation Army (PLA) better surveillance capabilities.

The Alfred Wegener Institute is the largest scientific organisation in Germany and coordinates German polar research efforts, according to its website.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney; Editing by Sam Holmes)