Renewed push begins for EP doppler radar

RADAR: Lower Eyre Peninsula farmer and candidate for Flinders Sam Telfer says the installation of a new doppler radar would have benefits to multiple industries on the Eyre Peninsula. Photo: File
RADAR: Lower Eyre Peninsula farmer and candidate for Flinders Sam Telfer says the installation of a new doppler radar would have benefits to multiple industries on the Eyre Peninsula. Photo: File

The installation and continued availability of a new weather doppler radar on Eyre Peninsula would have significant benefits for the region's farming, fisheries and emergency services sectors, say figures behind a renewed effort to secure funding support from the federal and state governments.

Forecasts for Eyre Peninsula are made using information from Ceduna and Adelaide-based radars, combined with the forecasting prowess of Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) meteorologists.

Providing accurate local forecasts becomes a more difficult task more than 200 kilometres from the radars due to the curvature of the earth, leaving a "significant gap" over much of the region, according to Port Lincoln mayor Brad Flaherty.

Mr Flaherty has previously written a business case into the matter and has lobbied state and federal governments, and the BOM, but has been unable to gain much traction.

"We've got more than three million hectares of broadacre grain on the EP, we've got the largest fishing fleet in the Southern Hemisphere and we've got a considerable population," he said.

"There's a significant gap in forecasting capacity and it's probably the only gap on mainland Australia where there is a significant population base and industry base."

Mr Flaherty said a new doppler radar, which he estimated would cost $8 million to install, would have major benefits to agriculture, fisheries, emergency management operations and personnel, as well as a burgeoning Australian space company operating on Lower Eyre Peninsula.

The installation of doppler radars are typically funded by the federal government, with state governments and local industry occasionally contributing.

Recent examples of doppler radar installations include the Western Australian government contributing $28m to support the BOM in building three doppler radars in Newdegate, South Doodlakine and Watheroo in 2017, plus the upgrade of Albany and Geraldton radars to doppler capacity completed in 2020.

The federal government announced $28m in funding for four new radars to cover large gaps between Mount Isa and Townsville, in response to devastating flooding in the region in February 2019.

A $24.5m investment was made by the New South Wales government to construct three doppler radars, starting in July 2020, and remove a weather radar blackspot covering Western NSW.

Lower Eyre Peninsula farmer and candidate for Flinders Sam Telfer said he had seen favourable benefit to cost ratio figures from the WA wheat industry relating to the installation of their doppler radars and said it strengthened the EP's case.

"I suggest that the efficiency figures for the EP would be equal to, or greater, because of the high input farming regime comparatively on the EP," he said.

"There is a variety of industry and opportunities which could be strengthened with an investment in this technology to bring us up to the same standard as most of the rest of the state and country."

Mr Telfer said the ability to access localised, accurate and timely weather forecasting would help EP farmers improve the efficiency of chemical and fertiliser applications and minimise any wastage.

"Having this weather information would have a high degree of impact on our planning and operations," he said.

"With the ever improving ag tech within the industry, farmers need to utilise every potential dataset available.

"Accurate weather information would be a real linchpin to the database decision-making that modern farming requires.

"Weather has an impact on all farming operations and reliable, short-term forecasting would provide greater certainty to these operations."

Mr Flaherty said the formation of an industry cluster, to lobby governments and discuss industry contribution, had been discussed.

While Primary Industries Minister David Basham said radar funding was generally a federal government responsibility, he said he would be willing to examine any proposals put forward.

"A new doppler radar on the Eyre Peninsula could certainly provide both economic and environmental benefits," he said.

"Traditionally funding for the installation and ongoing maintenance of Bureau of Meteorology facilities falls under the federal government's responsibility, but I would be happy to look at any proposal put forward by the industry.

"The government is always willing to meet with businesses and communities who have proposals to strengthen regional SA."

A federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment spokesperson insisted radar funding queries were a matter for the BOM, who said funding models for doppler radars was a complicated matter.

"Decisions about where to place new observation equipment for the Bureau's national observations network are based on a number of parameters including impacts on populated areas, the agricultural and mining industries, regions subject to variable and extreme weather and specific services required," a BOM spokesperson said.

"In addition to observation equipment funded by the federal government, the Bureau also partners with state and territory governments and other funding agencies to install and operate meteorological observing equipment where local needs are identified.

"Radars form only one part of a composite observing network, which includes satellite, lightning detection data services, upper air and surface observations together with predictions from advanced computer models.

"These resilient, national systems allow the Bureau's meteorologists to produce reliable, efficient and effective warning products or flood and rainfall forecasts in areas where there is little or no radar coverage."