MetService as a State Owned Enterprise
In 1992, New Zealand added to its list of world-firsts by creating a commercial company out of its national weather service, establishing MetService as a State Owned Enterprise (SOE). The idea was to enable our scientists to commercialise their expertise – creating revenue that would help support operations and reduce the cost of weather services to the tax payer, while also delivering export earnings for New Zealand.
The State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986 (the Act) requires MetService to operate as a successful business and to be:
- as profitable and efficient as comparable businesses not owned by the Crown
- a good employer
- an organisation that exhibits a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when it is able to do so.
The Act spells out the broad nature of the Crown’s ownership of the company, defining the role of directors and outlining the responsibilities of shareholding Ministers. The reporting requirements for SOEs are also outlined in the Act.
The Act creates an arms-length relationship by distancing management tasks from political control. Under the Act, the Government must fund any non-commercial activities that the Government wants carried out.
Almost 30 years later, MetService is a world leader in public weather forecasting and commercial weather innovation. From our operations at home and abroad MetService has delivered over $54m in dividends and $30m in tax to the nation. Over the same period, we've introduced many new public weather services and maintained an enviable record of accuracy in our forecasts for New Zealanders.
Our record of sustained innovation and forecasting quality has earned MetService the respect of the international weather community. With a reputation for doing exciting things that make an impact in the market, MetService is regarded as a benchmark for success. Being government-owned adds to this respect, and our contribution is sought internationally to help solve the weather challenges of the future.
The Meteorological Services Act
New Zealand is a Member State of the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations Specialized Agency that facilitates cooperation and data exchange between Member States.
The Meteorological Services Act 1990 requires the Minister of Transport to ensure the provision of a meteorological forecasting and warning service, as well as the collection of data required to support that service. In effect, the Act addresses New Zealand’s obligation to the World Meteorological Organization to maintain a National Meteorological Service for the safety of life and property.
The Ministry of Transport's Contract with MetService
The Minister of Transport meets the requirements of the Meteorological Services Act through a contract with MetService.
In summary, the services provided by MetService under the contract are:
- Severe weather forecasts and warnings for New Zealand land areas
- Forecasts and warnings for marine areas, including coastal and inshore recreational areas, and the South Pacific high seas
- Operation of the Wellington Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre and the Wellington Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre, which are World Meteorological Organization regional support services
- Meteorological support for land-based and maritime Search and Rescue
- Other meteorological services as required to support the Government’s response to unexpected events
- Representation of New Zealand at the World Meteorological Organization
- Operation of a national weather observing network to support weather forecasting and warning services