Push for radar gains pace

IRRIGATORS in the Macquarie Valley have tipped their hats to the Orana Regional Organisation of Councils (OROC) in its bid to secure a regional weather radar service, before urging politicians to lend a hand.

Through peak body Macquarie River Food and Fibre (MRFF), they have welcomed a study commissioned by OROC that supported the establishment of a weather radar in the region, said to be "poorly serviced" by the current Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) network.

Case studies in the 21-page document centre on the cost to Dubbo in the December 2010 flood of not receiving "more accurate" warnings, and the financial risks to farmers of unreliable weather forecasts.

MRFF reports of "pushing the case" for a weather radar service in the region for years.

Executive officer Susan Madden said it had worked closely with OROC to develop a project to clearly document the benefits of the service.

"The report states that agriculture remains the dominant industry in the Orana region contributing over $330 million to the economy and employing over 16 per cent of the region's workforce," she said.

"With weather having such a huge bearing on the agricultural industry it is obvious that improving the radar coverage will lead to tangible economic benefits."

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Ms Madden said agriculture would not be the only beneficiary of enhanced weather services in the region.

"The report highlights that the combined benefits to fire and emergency services, river operations, agriculture, mining and the aviation industry, well exceed the estimated $2.5 million capital cost of installing the Doppler radar technology," she said.

The OROC study highlighted the "significant gap" in service coverage in the Orana region, particularly when compared to other regions of inland Australia that had broadly similar demographics, industry structure and weather patterns, Ms Madden said.

"Not only do the economics stack up, there is a strong case on the grounds of equity for radar services to be provided in this region," she said.

The study reports the region gets "some coverage" from the BOM's Namoi and Wagga Wagga radars.

"A major limitation of these radars is their diminished accuracy beyond a radius of around 200 kilometres," it says.

The study was undertaken by GHD with about $14,000 funding from Regional Development Australia Orana.

MRFF was one of almost two dozen stakeholders asked for their point of view in the preparation of the document that is posted on www.oroc.com.au.

They include NSW Police, State Water, Alkane Resources, the University of NSW, the NSW State Emergency Service, Rex Airlines, QantasLink, the Central West Catchment Management Authority, NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Rural Fire Service and the BOM.

MRFF is among the first organisations to publicly swing in behind OROC which is seeking to build widespread support across the region for the new weather radar.

"MRFF is now calling on our state and federal members to use the business case to push to ensure our region is added to the national weather radar network," Ms Madden said.

OROC intends lobbying the federal government and "potential partners" in mining and agriculture for funding.

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