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Review by the CEO and Director of Meteorology

Dr Andrew Johnson, FTSE FAICDDr Andrew Johnson, FTSE FAICD

It is again my pleasure to reflect on the achievements of the Bureau in 2018–19, as it continues to make significant contributions to Australia’s economic prosperity, public safety, national security, environmental health and community well-being.

We are now two years into implementing our Strategy 2017–2022. The Strategy places our customers at the centre of everything we do and enables us to deliver on our mission of providing trusted, reliable and responsive weather, water, climate and ocean services for Australia—all day, every day.

To translate our strategic intent into action we are undertaking four major transformation activities. This year we established the Public Services Transformation Program that will be implemented over the next three years. The Program will deliver truly national, high-impact ‘one Bureau’ operations, products and services, underpinned by excellent science and technology.

We are in the second year of a five-year Program known as ROBUST which is addressing the security, stability and resilience of the Bureau’s information and communication technology (ICT) systems and observing networks.

Our third major transformation activity—the Aviation Meteorological Services Transformation Program—is proceeding on schedule and will be fully implemented by mid-2020 to deliver a more flexible, responsive and cost-effective service to Australia’s aviation industry.

Lastly, planning is well advanced on a business case to transform the Bureau’s underpinning business systems. This initiative is scheduled to commence implementation during the second half of 2019.

As always, many parts of Australia were affected by severe weather throughout the year. The Bureau’s whole-of-enterprise response to these events epitomises the ‘Bureau Way’. Our meteorologists, hydrologists and climatologists were brilliantly supported by observing, engineering and ICT teams who maintain our equipment and systems, and by our communications teams delivering our forecasts, warnings and advice to our customers, partners and stakeholders.

This year saw 11 named cyclones, with four making landfall on the Australian coast, including severe tropical cyclone Trevor, which led to the biggest evacuation in the Northern Territory since tropical cyclone Tracy in 1974. We also saw extremely heavy rainfall and large areas of flooding in northern Queensland in January and February, causing widespread devastation to the city of Townsville and surrounding areas, and to communities in the Herbert and Lower Burdekin, Gulf Country, Northern Goldfields and upper Flinders districts.

Extremely dry conditions during autumn and winter saw the initiation of bushfires in several States as early as August that lasted throughout spring and into summer. Heatwave conditions also occurred across Australia in December and January. The 2018–19 Summer was Australia’s warmest on record, breaking the previous record from 2012–13. The drought conditions in eastern Australia intensified during the year––the extended nature and timing of the dry conditions had very significant impacts on regional communities and industries. The thoughts of all Bureau staff are with their fellow citizens who have been adversely affected by the weather over the last 12 months.

The 2019–20 Federal Budget included $92.6 million in new funding for the Bureau to enhance our observational infrastructure footprint. The new investment will fund the installation and operation of four new S-band radars in Queensland, the relocation of the Moree radar to Boggabilla, and the installation of ten new rain gauges in the upper Burdekin and Flinders river catchments. This investment will provide significant new coverage supporting communities, emergency management and industry customers and partners. In addition, new funding has been provided by the Australian and Northern Territory governments to install and operate a new S-Band radar at Tennant Creek.

The Australian Government is also providing new funding of $2.7 million to the Bureau to support the development of regional scale climate guides that support farmers with their decision-making.

The New South Wales Government agreed to provide nearly $50 million to the Bureau to build and operate three new C-band dual polarisation Doppler radars in the State’s west. The new radars will enhance the State’s radar footprint and will eventually see radar coverage stretch to over 80 per cent of the New South Wales population. Construction of a new radar jointly funded with the Victorian Government also commenced in the Wimmera region.

The Bureau strengthened relationships with key partners throughout the year, including establishing a collaborative relationship understanding with CSIRO, a strategic partnership with the Australian Energy Market Operator, strategic relationship agreements with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, and Hydro Tasmania, and a long-term alliance with Sydney Water.

Through our partnership with State and Territory governments we agreed National Flood Warning Infrastructure Standards and delivered the National Fire Danger Ratings System prototype. The second stage of the Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific commenced; a critical initiative to support the safety, prosperity and resilience of our Pacific neighbours.

We also published with our colleagues in CSIRO the fifth State of the Climate report that draws on the latest monitoring, science and projection information to describe variability and changes in Australia’s climate. Observations and climate modelling paint a consistent picture of ongoing, long-term climate change interacting with underlying natural variability.

In June, I attended the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Congress, an event that is held once every four years. Congress reached agreement on key policy matters including international data exchange, public−private engagement, and the establishment of an integrated ‘earth system’ approach to the delivery of weather, climate, ocean and water services. I was also delighted to be elected as a member of the WMO Executive Council.

Finally, I am so proud to be part of an organisation that can effectively deploy capability from across Australia to deliver to our communities, governments and industries when it matters most. Over the last year, I have consistently received positive feedback from a wide range of our customers, partners and stakeholders, not only on the quality of our services and advice, but also on our new and innovative delivery methods, technologies and channels, and our future direction to further improve what we do. It remains a great honour and privilege to lead such a dedicated and capable organisation in the service of our nation.

Financial results

The Bureau reported an operating surplus of $11.607 million, excluding depreciation for 2018–19, against a budgeted operating surplus of $7.130 million. This surplus is largely due to external revenue used for capital assets. After including depreciation, the operating result was a deficit of $82.089 million in 2018–19, compared to a deficit of $81.010 million in 2017–18. This deficit was expected, as the Bureau—like all Australian Government agencies—is not funded for depreciation, but instead receives a separate asset capital injection.

Revenue for 2018–19 was $324.855 million, of which $231.658 million was funded as appropriation from Government, and $93.197 million was related to own-source income and gains, primarily from the sales of goods and rendering of services and other income.

Expenditure for 2018–19 was $406.944 million, primarily made up of employee benefits (45.9 per cent), supplier costs (30.3 per cent) and asset-related operating costs which included depreciation and amortisation (23.0 per cent).

The Bureau manages a significant portfolio of non-financial assets with a written down value of $586.497 million, of which 97.2 per cent is identified as property, plant and equipment, and computer software. As part of the Bureau’s ongoing asset investment and replacement program, $112.070 million was invested in asset acquisitions and construction in 2018–19, predominantly to support the delivery of customer services. Funding for capital investment was mostly provided by Government through departmental capital and equity-based funding. Other investments made by the Bureau were primarily funded from own-source revenue.

Outlook 2019–20

In 2019–20, the Bureau will continue to deliver its Strategy 2017–2022 and seek to drive a profound positive shift in the impact and value it provides for Australia, as we meet our customers’ increasing demands for personalised and customised delivery of weather, water and climate information to support their decision-making.

We will focus on the delivery of our major transformation programs for aviation and public services, as well as our corporate services. The Bureau will continue to improve the security, stability and resilience of its ICT and observing systems to support reliable, ongoing access to weather, climate, water and oceans information.

The Bureau will also continue its efforts to increase the efficient use of our resources, and investment in the skills and capabilities of our staff, to both enable the implementation of our Strategy and provide our people with satisfying and worthwhile careers.