Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board Annual Report 2014–15



  • Chair’s report
  • Executive summary
  • Advisory Board
  • Woomera Prohibited Area overview
  • Regulatory framework
  • Economic potential
  • Facts and figures
  • Defence use
  • Non-Defence users' views on coexistence

Executive summary

On 9 August 2014 the Defence Legislation Amendment (Woomera Prohibited Area) Act 2014 came into force and gave effect to the recommendations made in the Australian Government’s Review of the Woomera Prohibited Area, known as the Hawke Review.

In particular, the Act authorises the Minister for Defence to make, by legislative instrument and with the agreement of the Industry Minister, the Woomera Prohibited Area Rules. The Woomera Prohibited Area Rule 2014 came into effect on 27 August 2014. It sets the regulatory framework for new non Defence users to access the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) under the co existence scheme envisaged by the Hawke Review.

The WPA remains Australia’s most important military testing range. Although there were fewer testing activities compared to the previous reporting period, the complexity and number of trials is expected to increase in coming years following the introduction of new military capabilities and weapons systems that will be facilitated by the current program to upgrade the test range’s infrastructure and systems.

Minerals and energy resources exploration and mining provide the highest economic value among non-Defence activities in the WPA despite the downturn in commodity prices in recent years. During the reporting period, there were three mines operating in the WPA under their extant deeds of access arrangements – the Challenger gold mine, the Prominent Hill copper-gold mine and the Peculiar Knob iron ore mine. The Peculiar Knob operations were suspended in April 2015. These mines employed over 1,500 people and have contributed around $50 million to South Australia in royalties. The new owner of the Cairn Hill mine sought 'in principle' permission to access the WPA with the intention of applying during the next reporting period for a Resource Production permit under the Woomera Prohibited Area Rule 2014, which has since been approved.

Other groups with significant ongoing interests in the WPA include Indigenous groups and freehold landowners, pastoralists, tourists and the Tarcoola-to-Darwin rail owner and operators.