MORE than two years after it was announced that a weather radar station would be constructed in the Wimmera, the location was finally announced on Tuesday afternoon.

The site for the new installation, 10 kilometres south of Rainbow and 105km north of Horsham, was chosen after an extensive and detailed process to identify a location that would best serve both the Wimmera region and the wider Australian weather radar network.

It is an elevated site 10 kilometres south of the town between Lake Hindmarsh and
the Pullut silos. The property is owned by Rainbow man Steve Perkins.

The Bureau made the announcement in Horsham with the words ‘Somewhere over near Rainbow: the Wimmera’s weather radar’.

Doppler Radar
Doppler Radar

Pleasing news

The Executive Director of Wimmera Development Association, Ralph Kenyon, was delighted with the announcement following many years working towards this moment.

“I am pleased to represent the Wimmera Development Association, this regions peak economic development agency,” he said.

“WDA has been working towards this project for many years and through the efforts of my team and my predecessors we are seeing the fruition of those efforts here today.”

“When WDA prepared the business case for this project we were amazed at the potential
for significant cost savings and productivity benefi ts that far exceeded our expectations,” he said.

Wimmera Site near Rainbow
Wimmera Site near Rainbow

Cooperative approach

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Victorian State Manager, Dr Andrew Tupper, said getting the project to this stage has been the result of great cooperation between the local community and the Victorian State Government.

“The Australian Government, through the Bureau of Meteorology and the Victorian Government, represented by the Department of Economic Development,  Jobs, Transport and Resources, have been working closely with the Wimmera Development Association on this important infrastructure project for the region,” Dr Tupper said.

“As the radar is such a significant project, it has been vital for all parties to get the details right to ensure that it provides the maximum benefit, particularly for the region’s primary producers who depend so much on accurate rainfall forecasts.”

Best tool

Dual polarised doppler radar provides one of the best tools for observing real-time rainfall, storms and even debris in the atmosphere, across large areas.Radar systems use electromagnetic waves networks and mobile phones to detect rain drops, hail or snow; Doppler radars can also measure wind by detecting the speed of movement of the water that they encounter.

The state-of-the-art dual polarised doppler radar is now under construction in Germany and is due to begin operating in mid-2020, if not sooner.

Wimmera Radar Artists impression
Wimmera Radar Artists impression

Massive project

The project will cost $5 million for construction, with the installation expected to get underway early next year with the completion and calibration set for 2020.

The Victorian state government is providing the $3.5 million to cover the running costs over a 15-year period.

Real time weather data will mean so much to the farming community throughout the region which will help growers to make informed choices about harvesting, tillage and
the use of chemicals and fertilisers.

“Fertiliser is spread prior to rain so that crop yield is maximised, if fertiliser is applied and there is no rain the cost of that fertiliser is lost,” Mr Kenyon said.

Advance warning

“The radar will give farmers advance warning of incoming rain so they can make the decision on when to apply; based on a wheat crop across the Wimmera, accurate timing
for application of fertiliser results in more than a $1.5m per year benefit. (Lower input
costs and higher returns).”

“Herbicides, fungicides and pesticides protect crops, but require dry weather and sunshine to be effective. Weather conditions are therefore critical for decision making; the benefit to the region is $2 million per year,” he said.

“So for the agricultural sector alone we have a gain of $3.5m each year. The cost of the
radar is around $5m for capital and around $3.5m in operation and maintenance over a 15 year period. The radar will pay for itself in around 2.5 years,” Mr Kenyon said.

Other benefits of the radar include enhanced short-term rainfall forecasts and the provision of additional information to Bureau of Meteorology experts during
severe weather events.

Just as importantly, the financial benefits to emergency management, events and water resource management cannot be under estimated.

Broad welcomes news

Andrew Broad, Federal Member for Mallee, who could not attend the announcement, welcomed the long awaited news.

“It is an exciting day across the Wimmera and one we have been looking forward to for quite some time,” Mr Broad said.

“This region, and both federal and state government bodies, including myself have been lobbying for ‘real time’ weather data for the Wimmera for a long time now and after securing the funding it has been quite an effort to get to where we are today,” he said.

“However we are finally here. It’s fantastic to have the Bureau in Horsham today to officially announce the site of the Wimmera Weather Radar.”

“I would like to thank them for all of their continued hard work on this project, and also apologise for my constant pestering, I know I’ve met with them twice recently in Melbourne and I’m sure the state has been the same pushing hard to get an announcement too.”

“For farmers across the Wimmera, this weather radar is absolutely priceless. It will allow farmers to make informed on-farm decisions to achieve the best possible outcomes on their properties, it doesn’t get much more accurate than real time weather data on your doorstep.”

“I am excited to see the radar go up in our rural community and I look forward to plenty of rain in the forecast next season.”

A day to celebrate

Member for Western Victoria and Minister for Regional Development and Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, said the announcement is a day to celebrate a significant milestone, in what has been a long-time ambition of people in the Wimmera.

“The need for better weather monitoring was first raised with me by the Wimmera Development Association back in 2009, nearly a decade ago,” Ms Pulford said.

“The economic case was developed and it was strong. The only problem was that weather radar placement was determined by the Bureau of Meteorology and while we were on the list, we were not close to the top of that list,” she said.

“When I became Minister for Regional Development and Agriculture four years ago the need for this service was raised with me again. The community pressed their case: WDA, the councils, the VFF all united in the view that this was a priority.”

“In no way seeking to pass the buck, I explained that we would love to help but building
weather radars was clearly one for the federal government. ‘But they did it in Western Australia’ I was told,” Mrs Pulford said.

Infrastructure

“Shortly thereafter I found myself at a national meeting of Ag Ministers and chatting in the break with the head of Western Australia’s Ag Department. I asked how they’d done it. The very helpful official duly sent me everything they had the very next day. We had very recently established our $200M Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund and had the capacity to fund the build, but no way to deal with the operational costs,” she said.

“In what remains one of the most efficient exercises in state/commonwealth relations since federation, and in a spirit of ‘bipartisanship’ Andrew Broad and I got to work. I called Andrew and the very same day he strode into the then Federal Minister for the
Environment’s office and said something along the lines of,

“if we can cover the running costs, I reckon the state can cover the build”. And thus it
was so. We had the head of the Bureau on the phone to the people from AgVic and RDV
within a couple of days.”

“Congratulations to all of you, for your determination, vision and persistence. And thank you to our landlord without whom there wouldn’t be a location; that important last piece of the puzzle.”

“The Andrews Government is so pleased to have been part of this partnership with the Federal Government, this community and industry,” she concluded.

Proud

Members of the Rainbow community are proud to be at the forefront of this new technology and are extremely excited to be the home of the new radar which will help farmers across the district and further afield.

After many years of campaigning from farmers and residents alike right across western Victoria, to be the home of the new weather radar is a wonderful achievement.

“We will finally have reliable weather data,” Hindmarsh Shire Mayor Ron Ismay declared happily after the announcement.

“We are pleased that the radar will be in the Hindmarsh Shire and it will literally put
Rainbow on the map,” Mayor Ismay said.