Weather radar short­list

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

The Wim­mera-mallee towns of Don­ald and Hopetoun are on a short­list to play an in­te­gral role in broad­acre agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and emer­gency-ser­vice re­sponse plan­ning across western Vic­to­ria.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy has listed both as po­ten­tial sites for a new mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar weather-radar sta­tion.

Wim­mera De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ralph Kenyon con­firmed re­search had iden­ti­fied both towns as hav­ing the ca­pac­ity to fill a ‘black hole’ in re­gional weather fore­cast­ing.

He said gov­ern­ment agen­cies were now de­vel­op­ing an en­gage­ment plan to ex­plore the po­ten­tial of both sites be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion and hav­ing the sta­tion op­er­a­tional by the mid­dle of next year.

“The bureau had 12 sites to con­sider and that num­ber is now down to two,” he said.

“The Hopetoun site is fo­cused on an old wa­ter tower and elec­tric­ity-sup­ply de­pot and the Don­ald site is at the aero­drome.

“Both sites have the ca­pac­ity to pro­vide real-time weather fore­cast­ing for the whole Wim­mera and south­ern Mallee.

“Both have good ac­cess to power sup­ply, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­fras­truc­ture, so it is re­ally a mat­ter of which one is engi­neer­ing-wise the best lo­ca­tion.”

The Wim­mera Dop­pler Weather Radar Pro­ject is de­signed to fill a weath­er­fore­cast­ing gap be­tween radar sta­tions at Mil­dura and Mt Gam­bier.

The State Gov­ern­ment has pro­vided $5-mil­lion for the pro­ject and the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment $3.2 to $4-mil­lion to cover com­mis­sion­ing and an­nual op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance costs. Wim­mera De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion de­vel­oped a busi­ness case for the pro­ject and has worked in col­lab­o­ra­tion with mu­nic­i­pal en­gi­neers and the weather bureau.

Mr Kenyon said real-time ac­cess to weather fore­cast­ing in the re­gion would be a ma­jor boost for re­gional agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity and de­vel­op­ment.

“It will be state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy, pro­vid­ing ac­cu­rate, com­pre­hen­sive and crit­i­cal weather in­for­ma­tion that al­lows farm­ers to make timely op­er­a­tional de­ci­sions,” he said.

“That will lead to in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and a fur­ther boost to the re­gional econ­omy.

“Emer­gency ser­vices will also have much clearer ad­vanced weather-warn­ing in­for­ma­tion when deal­ing with an­nual threats from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as fire.

“We’re on track to have ac­cess to this in­for­ma­tion, which will be read­ily avail­able through var­i­ous ser­vices such as phone weather apps by the mid­dle of next year.”

Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent David Jochinke wel­comed the news, de­scrib­ing it as a step closer to ad­dress­ing an is­sue that had lim­ited the abil­ity of farm­ers to man­age their farms.

“The sooner they can se­lect the site and get on with build­ing the ser­vice we’ve been wait­ing for, the bet­ter,” he said.

“It’s been a bit of a drawn-out process and peo­ple will be re­lieved when it’s up and func­tional. Farm­ers will im­me­di­ately use this ser­vice and a va­ri­ety of other in­dus­try and com­mu­nity uses will quickly be iden­ti­fied. It’s not just for farm­ing – but the whole com­mu­nity.”

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