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Geoscience Australia: Chief Executive Officer's review

A large ocean-going vessel.

As Australia’s pre-eminent public sector geoscience organisation and the nation’s trusted adviser on the geology and geography of Australia, Geoscience Australia continued its vital work supporting Australian Government priorities in 2015–16.

To help build Australia’s resource wealth, Geoscience Australia carried out targeted data acquisition and developed new information to highlight areas of enhanced mineral and energy potential. This included the release of a pre-competitive seismic reflection dataset of the northern Houtman Sub-basin, offshore Western Australia. This dataset supports a regional petroleum prospectivity assessment and future acreage releases, enabling industry to explore and invest in Australia with confidence. In October 2015, four permits, representing $297 million in new investment, were granted in Commonwealth waters off Western Australia as part of the Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release programme.

To ensure community safety and to assist with preparedness for natural disasters, Geoscience Australia provided essential information to all levels of government, emergency managers and the community. It provided mapping services and support to Emergency Management Australia’s Crisis Coordination Centre covering bushfire events in Western Australia, South Australia, on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, and in world heritage areas in Tasmania. Enhancements to data and customised reporting capabilities implemented during the year were particularly useful for the Attorney-General’s Department to support Australian Government responses to national disasters. Geoscience Australia issued a total of 269 earthquake alerts, 57 of which were alerted to the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre as having the potential to generate tsunami in the Australian region. Earthquake advice to the public was delivered through 300 credited media reports and Geoscience Australia’s website.

In securing Australia’s water resources, Geoscience Australia continued to deliver components of the Australian Government’s Bioregional Assessment Programme. This programme aims to better understand the potential impacts of coal mining and coal seam gas extraction on Australia’s water resources. It provided expertise to bioregional assessments in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. This work supports responsible decision-making about groundwater and is fundamental to addressing the nation’s critical water security challenges.

Contributing to the management of Australia’s marine jurisdiction, Geoscience Australia released updated maritime boundaries data and continued work on determining the location of Australia’s territorial sea baseline. It also released marine environmental data and interpretations for Casey Station (Antarctica), Darwin Harbour, and the North and Northwest Marine Regions. This will allow decision-makers to better understand these unique marine environments in high-use areas.

To advance the provision of fundamental geographic information, Geoscience Australia continued to lead the implementation of Australia’s Foundation Spatial Data Framework on behalf of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and ANZLIC – the Spatial Information Council. This work will improve the coordination and use of geographic information. Efforts to develop the National Positioning Infrastructure will ensure that Australia will have access to improved, fit-for-purpose satellite positioning capabilities. In support of the search for missing flight MH370, it provided geospatial information and scientific advice to the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau for approximately 67 600 square kilometres of bathymetry survey data and 65 220 square kilometres of sonar data. These activities have significantly improved the use of fundamental geographic information by government, industry and the public to support planning, investment and emergency management.

In support of maintaining Australia’s geoscience knowledge and capability, Geoscience Australia upgraded the Alice Springs observatory antenna in 2015–16. This upgrade enabled the Mission Operation Centre at NASA to use the antenna to send command and control signals to the US Landsat 8 satellite as well as receive spacecraft health and safety monitoring data from the satellite. The antenna continued to acquire data from the Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 satellites, which was made available through a high-performance data facility, the Australian Geoscience Data Cube. The facility was upgraded in 2015–16 to provide better data processing tools and to allow data input from multiple sources. As part of the National Offshore Petroleum Information Management System, Geoscience Australia developed an online data discovery and delivery system for Australian offshore petroleum wells and surveys. This was released to industry at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Conference and Exhibition in June 2016.

Further details on Geoscience Australia’s work and performance in 2015–16 are provided in the annual performance statements section in Chapter 9 of this report.