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BOM to dump local radio weather forecasts in Gippsland and Newcastle after 40 years

By Kellie Lazzaro, Tuesday October 13, 2020 - 09:52 EDT
ABC image
East Sale RAAF Base weather forecaster Andy Kemp delivers weather information to defence personnel, as well as farmers across Gippsland. - ABC

The Bureau of Meteorology is being urged to review its decision to dump local radio weather reports by forecasters at the East Sale RAAF Base.

The BOM said scrapping radio crosses from defence bases at East Sale and Williamtown, near Newcastle, is part of the BOM's ongoing transition to a "national operations model".

In Gippsland, forecasters at the East Sale RAAF Base have been providing on-air weather reports for the past 40 years.

ABC Gippsland listeners have bombarded the bureau's talkback and text lines this morning with complaints about the decision.

But BOM chief customer officer Peter Stone said meteorologists in capital city offices were better equipped to provide information to the public, via the media, about the weather.

"There's absolutely no erosion of the service here," Mr Stone said.

"So the crosses that have been happening to date to ABC Gippsland [and ABC Newcastle] have been done by specialist defence aviation meteorologists, paid for by the RAAF.

"Their job is to provide specialised aviation forecasts that support complex aviation movements that protect air crew.

"Our forecasters based at our national forecast centres might not know every fishing spot and picnic ground that those living locally do, but they are certainly equipped to know the weather in those areas because our weather forecasts are all generated out of Melbourne and Sydney."

Mr Stone said during last summer's bushfires, Melbourne-based forecasters provided the daily radio weather reports for Gippsland residents.

"And I didn't hear any complaints about that and it's because of the increased demands placed on our defence aviation forecasters that it's become obvious to us that we need to allow them to focus on their core task, which is servicing the RAAF," he said.

"East Sale is the only location in Victoria from which we issue local voices on the forecasts."

'Strange, bizarre decision', says Minister

Member for Gippsland and Minister for Veterans Affairs Darren Chester said he wanted an explanation from the Bureau about the decision.

"It seems to me a very strange, quite bizarre decision," he said.

"It appears to me to be trying to fix a problem that no-one knew we actually had.

"I've never had any complaints about the current service, in fact quite the opposite.

"And no-one at the RAAF base has ever said to me the bureau team spends too much time on the radio.

"I'm unconvinced at the moment that switching it to Melbourne is a good decision, so I've asked the Bureau of Meteorology for a full briefing."

'Local knowledge rules'

Forge Creek farmer Trevor Caithness said he relied on the local weather forecasts out of the East Sale RAAF Base.

"I think we have a huge issue if we start swinging across to 100 per cent Melbourne weather forecasts because Gippsland is such a huge area and the weather patterns that actually hit South Gippsland are so different to what hit East Gippsland," he said.

"What you appreciate once you listen to our local guys at Sale is that they'll say look the weather that's coming through this afternoon, you will have an easterly change come in at say three o'clock, that's going to change the direction of the wind, and that's important if we've got spraying or anything like that planned.

"Everyone listens to what those guys are saying. You don't get that information from Melbourne."

"This is just a disaster in the making."


© ABC 2020

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