NT still in dark over weather radar shutdown

Beef Central, 03/09/2012

The Bureau of Meteorology weather radar facility at Tennant Creek.Northern Territory cattle producers remain in the dark over a Federal Government decision to decommission an important weather radar facility in Tennant Creek.

Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association president David Warriner said the Government had made the decision to close the Bureau of Meteorology radar without consultation and with no idea of the risks it posed to life and family safety in the region.

He said the radar allowed storms and weather events to be monitored in real time and played a critical role in planning for and responding to medical evacuations, daily operations, aviation and road transport. 

Detailed, real time weather information was vital in the region where roads are unsealed and quickly impassable after rain.

“This decision puts lives at risk, as well as significantly reducing our productivity,” Mr Warriner said.

“This is cost-saving gone mad and a decision the outback cattle industry and wider community cannot afford.

“We are trying to recover from the live cattle ban and now we cop another hit without warning.  It looks like a decision made from a well-lit, safe and air-conditioned departmental office in Canberra, far removed from the lives and livelihoods of remote Australian families. 

“This needs to be fixed and the solution is to keep the radar operating,” he said.

He said that as the radar did not need to be manned and could be periodically maintained at minimal cost, the decision should be easy to reverse.

However the NTCA told Beef Central today that despite having approached environment minister Tony Burke and local Labor MT Warren Snowdon, it was yet to receive a response.

The NTCA met with shadow environment minister Greg Hunt last Friday, who pledged to review the decision if the Coalition was successful at the next Federal election.

The current radar, which was commissioned in October 2005 by Mr Hunt as then parliamentary secretary with responsibility for the Bureau of Meteorology.

The WF100 radar replaced an obsolete WF3 wind-measuring radar which operated at the Tennant Creek Meteorological Office for the previous 32 years.

The WF100 radar has performed two roles at Tennant Creek – a weather watch capability providing detailed imagery showing the location, intensity and movement of rainfall, updated every 10 minutes, and would also provide forecasters with improved upper wind measurements through closer tracking of a weather balloon target.

While the Federal Government has not yet been in touch with the NTCA over the issue, ABC Radio reported that the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability Senator Don Farrell had provided a statement on the issue, which said:

"The Bureau will continue to provide forecasts and warnings for the Northern Territory, including Tennant Creek.

"Tennant Creek is one of a number of sites around Australia that will experience changes to operations as new technology is introduced.

"The Tennant Creek radar was installed to track weather balloons, measuring upper atmospheric winds. Its weather-watch capability was made available when the radar was not required for balloon tracking.

"New wind finding technology that is already installed and currently being commissioned at the site will result in near continuous observations of upper wind profiles being provided to forecasters.

"This is a substantial increase on the current 2-3 observations they currently receive each day, greatly improving our ability to monitor weather conditions at this location. As a consequence of this upgrade, the radar at the site is no longer required."


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