MetService hits pause on Otago weather radar

MetService has halted construction of its $2.8 million weather radar in Otago as a result of Covid-19 and the country going into lockdown.

Construction on Lamb Hill, near Hindon, was in full swing and the project was running to schedule.

MetService meteorological data services manager Kevin Alder had anticipated the radar would be operational by late May this year, but that date would now be considerably later.

"The delay was unavoidable," he said.

"With the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 being put in place, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to stop the construction work immediately.

"As a result, the installation of the radar will be delayed by some months."

At present, the radar’s foundations are almost complete - the last concrete for the foundations had been scheduled to be poured next week.

Off-site construction of the 12-metre tower was largely complete. The tower would be stored by the manufacturer until it could be painted and transported to Dunedin.

The radar transmitter, antenna and radome had been delivered, and were in secure storage in Dunedin.

Off-site manufacture of the radar out-buildings was mostly complete and delivery of those facilities was anticipated in early April.

"The construction of the radar involves a large number of people and external services and equipment, which was simply not possible to bring together while only essential services are permitted to operate during the lockdown period," Mr Alder said.

The location and topography of the radar site (750m above sea level, northwest of Dunedin) meant it was not possible for on-site groundwork to proceed in the winter months, which would further delay the commencement of the work.

"At this stage, we hope to have the radar operational later in the year," he said.

"MetService acknowledge this is a significant setback for communities in the Otago region, but as we are all aware, these are totally unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances."

The Otago radar is the largest capital project MetService is managing, and the organisation is committed to having the radar operable as soon as possible.

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