Rain forecasts rile on sunny West Coast

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Laura Mills

The glacier communities are lobbying the Tv news, and tourist operators are again pulling their hair out, after non-existent rain was forecast on the West Coast over the Christmas break, scaring off potential visitors.
The Metservice forecast briefly heavy rain for the West Coast yesterday, and occasional showers today.
Yesterday, there was a mere 0.6mm of rain in Westport, but in Greymouth and Hokitika people had to lather on the sunscreen.
Franz Inc chairman Marcel Fekkes said the business group had written to TV One asking that Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier be added to the nightly weather reports.
For now, they “don’t want to play ball”.
Currently, the forecast jumped from Fiordland to Hokitika, hundreds of kilometres away.
“A lot of people divert their trip to the Coast for that reason, they see rain on the weather chart and go on the other side of the alps,” Mr Fekkes said.
He said it had become “traditional” the forecasters got it wrong.
“It costs us dearly.”
Motel Association West Coast chairman Bryan Williamson, of Greymouth, said the forecasts were “so far wrong they are unreal” and he had given up watching the weather on the
6 o’clock news.
“Unfortunately, others do,” he said.
Metservice forecaster Brooke Lockhart said today the Southern Alps presented a challenge to weather forecasting, plus the large geographical area of Westland.
“In a lot of cases there can be rain in one part, but where someone is looking at the sky it can also be fine.”
It had been hoped the $2.5 million weather radar installed atop Blue Spur, at Hokitika, last spring, and now fully operational, would help forecasting. However, last year the Metservice said the weather station would not actually forecast. Instead, it would provide much more information on what was happening with existing weather fronts.
The weather radar takes scans of weather systems every seven and a half minutes, which can then be viewed
on-line and enable a much better view of what the weather is doing as it moves along the West Coast.