Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) is receiving state-of-the-art road-weather data for the Crown Range Road following the signing of a five-year decision-support contract with MetService.
The new contract provided for the installation of an automated weather station, a high-resolution road/sky camera, embedded road sensors and road-weather forecasting from MetService.
The Crown Range Road
The Crown Range Road is aptly named ¬ it is the highest sealed alpine road in New Zealand. It lies to the east of the Wakatipu Basin and winds steeply between Arrow Junction, just south of Arrowtown, and Wanaka to the north.
The road can be significantly impacted by severe weather events all year, with snow and ice making the road dangerous for road users during the cooler months of May to September. Reduced visibility, strong winds and heavy rainfall events can also impact the road at any time of the year.
The road is not only a vital route, but is also a tourist attraction affording stunning views of the Queenstown area. It serves a high percentage of tourists, many of whom may not be familiar with winter driving conditions in New Zealand and the impact of severe weather events at high altitude.
Overview of the new services
In the past, QLDC and road maintenance contractor Downer, have not received weather observations from the Crown Range Road.
The new weather station and auxiliaries deliver data about the prevailing real-time and expected conditions and the road’s environmental status, and provide MetService’s road-weather forecasters with dynamic real-time observations and weather verifications.
Those observations will assist the forecasters to prepare highly-accurate guidance and decision-support insights for the QLDC and Downer operations and communications teams.
The solar-powered automated weather station was installed in September adjacent to the summit carpark. It provides updates every minute, and together with the embedded sensors deliver air and road temperatures, road status, dew point, humidity, wind direction and speed, rainfall and associated road weather data.
The data will be communicated via a cellular network for ingestion into the MetService MetConnect weather dashboard and the new Foreca (MetService’s new Scandinavian road weather partner) high-resolution road visualisations that will model Crown Range Road conditions every 30 metres over the road’s entire 25 kilometres. Operational forecasting to this resolution is previously unheard of in New Zealand and for that matter, the Southern Hemisphere.
MetService forecasters will use the data to generate Crown Range Road snow warnings and highlight safety issues and potential disruption on the road.
Polly Lambert, Policy, Standards and Asset Planner for QLDC says the new services will assist the public to make informed travel decisions by providing access to up-to-date information, but also enable the timely and pro-active management of the road that’ll benefit both the local community and visitors travelling the road.
“Severe weather events on the Crown Range can present not only a risk to our travellers’ and road workers’ safety, but can also impact Council pro-actively managing the road. The new services will assist us to better mitigate these risks and service the needs of all road users.”
“The introduction of these innovative technologies enables Council to build a comprehensive picture of what is happening, and forecast to happen across the Crown Range. They’ll bring insights into our control rooms not previously available. We believe this investment will prove highly-valuable to operational decision-making and collaboration with our partners.”
Under the contract, MetService will be responsible for the provision of data, and the regular maintenance, upgrades and performance verifications of the equipment in the field.
MetService also provided QLDC and Downer with onsite training on the portals/platform, the interpretation of the meteorological data, and plans for when severe weather events are forecast to impact the Range.
Policy, Standards and Asset Planner
Queenstown Lakes District Council
T +64 3 441 0499