The six year war for New Zealand’s weather data

The Spinoff | 4 June 2016

The New Zealand Government has agreed to formally investigate why taxpayer funded weather data is currently being blocked for open use – and what data could be freed up in the future. It’s long overdue, writes Philip Duncan.

I set up WeatherWatch.co.nz in 2005 when I worked for the Radio Network. In 2010 I was caught up in the dramatic media changes and as a result I left radio and took ownership of WeatherWatch.co.nz, hiring one other person full time and one part time. MetService has 100+ meteorologists and NIWA has over 1$100m a year in taxpayer funding. So in the battle I’m about to describe, I’m David not Goliath.

Growing up I had huge respect for MetService and NIWA. Former MetService weather ambassador Bob McDavitt never saw me as competition, he saw me as someone who was passionate about weather.

But as my brand grew I suddenly found myself being treated like the bad guy by the Government forecaster. I was accused of stealing MetService warnings and labelling them as my own. I had NIWA’s CEO come to me and personally tell me “no one in New Zealand communicates the weather better than Philip Duncan and WeatherWatch” and signed a contract with us to display NIWA’s data – then without warning cancelled the contract to suddenly compete against me. They told the media and my clients before they told me.

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