$8 million committed for Wimmera weather radar
Premier Daniel Andrews announced the $5 million commitment towards building the Doppler weather radar station in the Wimmera during a VFF barbecue at the Wycheproof Golf Club last week.
VFF Vice President David Jochinke described the funding as “the most significant investment in production infrastructure that I’ve seen in this region in my lifetime”.
“The farming community has been crying out for this project for years,” he said.
Mr Jochinke said the construction of the weather radar station meant a lot for Wimmera Mallee grain growers, who have been unable to see when rain bands might sweep across their properties while out spraying or applying urea.
“Finally we’ll be able to check the radar to see what rainfall is on the horizon, so we can make real time decisions based on real time information,” he said.
Member for Mallee Andrew Broad said he was “delighted” to be able to confirm the funding for the project which will improve the productivity of farmers in the Wimmera region significantly.
“This is amazing news for the Wimmera. Once the radar is up and going, it will provide real time weather data, allowing farmers to make informed on-farm decisions, to achieve the best production outcomes,” Mr Broad said.
Actively campaigning for the radar project for years, promising the Wimmera that he would see the project delivered, Mr Broad is also pleased his commitment has now been delivered.
“I have worked with both the Federal Minister for Environment Greg Hunt and the State Government to ensure that the radar station, which is a priority for the Wimmera region, becomes a reality,” Mr Broad said.
“The Wimmera is a major agricultural region and the radar has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits,” he said.
The provision of better data from the radar will enhance commercial outcomes by reducing wasted input costs, with annual projected benefits of $3.5 million.
Evidence indicates that growers in other regions that are serviced by similar radar stations as the one planned for the Wimmera make regular, active use of the service.
Better weather forecasting data would also generate a range of other commercial and public benefits covering emergency management, water resource management, tourism and aviation.
“The absence of reliable, current weather data such as that on rainfall, can have ramifications for farmers, but the lack of data can also have implications for other sectors, importantly, including those related to emergency services,” Mr Broad said.
“To secure this radar is important for the region as a whole and I look forward to seeing the project completed and delivering for the people of the Wimmera,” he said.
The State Government’s $5 million commitment will be supplemented by a $3.25 million allocation from the Federal Government, which will also cover the radar’s operational costs for the next 15 years, the expected life of the station.
“Farmers could lose a large amount of money if they spray on the basis of a dry forecast only to discover it does rain and washes the sprays away,” Mr Jochinke said.
“Conversely, they have struggled to time their urea applications, which need follow up rain to wash it into the soil,” he said.
“Having access to a weather radar is also valuable in determining how much rain is in those rain bands and what impact it will have, even when it comes to applying fungicides to protect crops in the lead up to rainfall that might trigger a disease outbreak.”
VFF Grains President Brett Hosking said growers have long recognised the need for a weather radar and are pleased to see the issue finally being addressed.
“VFF grains members passed a resolution at our annual conference in February calling for a Wimmera weather station to ensure more accurate application of farming activities,” Mr Hosking said.
“Currently, farmers in central and western Victoria have to use the weather stations in Mount Gambier and Mildura and effectively ‘guesstimate’ what conditions will be in their area,” he said.
Mr Hosking said the commitment is “an important investment for farmers and for regional and rural communities”, which will close what is currently effectively a “black hole” in the weather information system.
At this stage it appears likely to radar will be located between Warracknabeal and Brim, however, the Bureau of Meteorology will choose the final site and will be responsible for the building, operation and maintenance of the radar station.
Yarriambiack Shire Mayor Ray Kingston said: “It is huge for the region economically.”
“This is an amazing example of regional councils working together over a long period of time,” he said.
Mayor Kingston also spoke well of the Wimmera Development Association who have also been involved in the project to build the weather radar.
“The general public may not know why or how the Wimmera Development Association works, but they should be excited for the impact this will have in the region,” he said.
“This type of action is why councils value the Wimmera Development Association.”
As the VFF has been lobbying for this for many years, the Mayor was excited to see some progress take place.
“I was confident we would get funding for the weather radar, but I didn’t expect it to be announced last week,” Mayor Kingston said.