Weather Watch

Weather analyst Philip Duncan checks the forecast and the story behind the temperatures

Weather Watch: State forecaster overdue for healthy competition

Weather warnings should not be restricted. Photo / APN
Weather warnings should not be restricted. Photo / APN

Some of you may have picked up on a small spat between myself and MetService last week.

I tweeted in frustration after I was told that WeatherWatch.co.nz couldn't receive thunderstorm warnings automatically, despite these warnings being state-funded and the public safety risk of people not seeing them on our site.

I'm not going to discuss the details of that particular issue here in my column, as we managed to resolve this with them on Friday evening.

But the Herald on Sunday editor made the valid point that this has brought the debate into the public domain, and it is something that I need to address.

I'm calling on the Government to look at the state-owned enterprise model and to ask the question: "Do we need to monetise everything in weather?" The way the Government set up MetService in the early 1990s was unusual compared with other countries.

In fact, as far as I'm aware there isn't any other country that runs its national weather service this way.

MetService is an excellent brand and it has some of the best weather forecasters in the country, but this powerful brand, backed by government funding and big government clients, comes at the expense of any serious competition.

The weather industry has been deregulated for almost 20 years, yet there has never been serious competition. You have to ask what forces are stopping that.

I believe my comments were fair - and balanced. In August we went out of our way to thank MetService for the fantastic job of warning us about the Antarctic blast - and I also praised a new member of its forecast team. I've also thanked MetService publicly for its assistance in working with us to develop the main part of our new warnings page. It's not all negative.

My motivation is to help bring New Zealand into line with most other developed nations, such as Australia, Canada and the United States, when it comes to the weather industry.

We are missing out on some exciting weather features, currently only accessible if you want to pay plenty for them. This is where the Government has it wrong. I want a public forecaster that puts people first. In my opinion, SOEs are not the best models for achieving that.

- Herald on Sunday

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