Weather radar shortlist
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.”