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BLOG : “Free up our Rain Radars”

Please post a comment on this Blog – we’d love to hear your thoughts…this is obviously an important subject!

Head weather analyst Philip Duncan writes regular blogs for the NZ Herald, and in his latest blog he’s asked for New Zealand’s rain radars to be made free for all kiwis.

An open letter to whichever party wins this year’s general election:

In a nutshell: It’s about time our rain radars – paid for by the New Zealand public – were made free to the New Zealand public.

We have five rain radars in New Zealand – basically covering Southland, Christchurch, Wellington, Taranaki and Auckland. The government also has plans to install one for the Gisborne region which is well overdue in my eyes – but they aren’t cheap and it must be hard for MetService to convince the government that these expensive pieces of technology are worth the millions of dollars each to install. Due to their cost it’s not surprising that the Government doesn’t want them available for free. However I believe it’s time to quit the “user pays” attitude when it comes to weather – it’s too 1990’s and we’re fast approaching the second decade of the new century!

To read this rest of this article, click “Read More” below.

MetService’s website is ranked in the top few websites in New Zealand – there is no shortage of visitors to the site and therefore access to significant sponsor revenue to help recoup the costs (and I’d imagine pretty quickly too if they did it properly).

Now to be fair the government has allowed some radar images to be made available to the public for free – and in recent years have increased the updates from every 3 hours (which was an utter waste of time) to one image every hour (which is still pretty pathetic but a heck of a lot better). In fact the Government has allowed MetService to open up a number of new and better services and this is fantastic – but sadly the radar is still running about one decade behind.

Please note that I’m not attacking MetService here. They have a tough job as they balance providing a weather service to the New Zealand public (and dominates the majority of our media organisations) as well as returning significant profit back to the Government. In fact the Government’s pressure to make MetService a serious commercial contender on the weather stage is more than likely holding back the freeing up of our rain radars and other services. It’s a bit like Telecom to the internet industry. We have some unbundling to do.

On a human side, we have had an incredible number of weather related deaths this year – now I’m not saying that if the rain radars were freely available then lives would’ve been saved but I’m sure with the right education and the radars becoming free and common place across the media then it would definitely help protect lives and property in the future.

Critics will say I’m calling on freeing up of this vital service to help with our own Weather Watch Centre – well, yes, that’s partly true. It would certainly help us – it would allow us to offer a service that tracked thunderstorms – the ones that endanger lives. It would allow us unlimited access to storm tracking – and would mean you could see if that heavy rain was going to hit your place or not. You could even check frequently during the day to see if it was worth doing the washing – or if it was going to rain on your BBQ later in the day.

It’s unbelievable that in this day and age we have to pay our government to access our own rain radars. Even Cuba has a more advanced rain radar set up that allows free access to radar images updated every 15 minutes right across the country. Oddly enough their radars go offline at about the same rate as ours do.

In Australia the free rain radar service is even better with updates every 10 minutes. Canadians get the same service with free updates every 10 minutes. In American they get an even better service – with not only free rain radars updated every 10 minutes but because it’s freely available private weather companies such as Weather.Com and have been able to enhance them – creating a colourised rain radar to show freezing rain and snow – how helpful would that be for Southland, Central Otago and Canterbury in winter?

The UK’s system is considerably worse with updates only every 30 minutes – but that’s still a mile better than the New Zealand Government’s control and monopoly of our rain radars – updated just once and hour (and that’s only when they’re working that is!).

So – let me repeat – my issue is definitely not with MetService – but instead with the Government who demand a profit from them and in my view partly jeopardise public safety in return for a buck. I ask that the next Government, whether it’s a new one or a continuation of the status quo – to please, seriously, look at freeing this important service up so that everyday kiwis can enjoy what they love doing best – making the most of the great outdoors.

Philip Duncan

For the latest weather news keep up to date with The Radio Network’s Weather Watch Centre or the weather section.


Tom Whelan on 15/10/2008 6:42am

Yes, they need to be available like they are in many other countries. I am so glad that the subject has been brought up!

Daniel E on 14/10/2008 11:16pm

I too support the rain radars being freed up to the NZ public. 10 min updates would be excellent!

David on 14/10/2008 7:24am

Yes. Doesn’t say much for our weather data availability. 1hour updates are simply not good enough in my opinion.

Guest on 14/10/2008 5:45am

i hear that. well over due and needs to be changed. you hit the nail on the head there.

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