MERC Newsletter – April 2018


Delegates, here is the April 2018 Newsletter under the new name of the “Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils (NSW) Incorporated” as approved by the Department of Fair Trading with the acronym of MERC.

Our new logo (Option B with amendments to the wording so it reads “Mining and Energy” in large letters to emphasise our focus on Mining & Energy and underneath it has “Related Councils NSW” next to the green symbol on the left) was also agreed to after much debate by delegates.The logo will soon be on our website and correspondence, when to hand.

This newsletter has a lot of important information in it for you to read, please circulate this to your fellow councillors and senior staff, so they can appreciate and understand the excellent work the Association and you are doing on behalf of your council and community, with regard to mining and energy related matters.

Next Meetings in Cobar 10/11th May 2018

The Executive Committee will meet at 9.00am in the Cobar RSL on 10TH May. The Workshop on Solar Farming commences at 1.00pm in the Auditorium at the Cobar RSL Club on 10th May 2018. The Ordinary meeting will be held the next day on 11th May 2018 in the Cobar RSL Club Auditorium to commence from 9.00am and finish at 1.00pm with lunch.

The Solar Farming workshop on Thursday 10th May 2018 will commence at 1.00pm with a variety of speakers from Councils, Government and even have a solar sales business speaking about how Councils can reduce energy costs and with some excellent Council examples, to balance the debate.

A list ot speakers is as follows:

  • Introduction of Speakers and Purpose of Workshop – Greg Lamont (Executive Officer MERC);
  • Council Experience with Solar Farming & Energy Developments – Glenn Wilcox (Warren Shire Council and Life Member of Association);
  • Impact on Council Infrastructure from Solar and Wind Farming Projects – Michael McMahon/Chris Devitt (Dubbo Regional Council);
  • The Nevertire Solar Farm Project at Bogan Shire Council, turning the development into a Tourist attraction, a Mayor’s perspective – Clr Ray Donald (Mayor, Bogan Shire Council, Nyngan);
  • Jason Robertson, See Solar – How Councils can use solar energy for their own facilities/public safety at reduced costs versus traditional street lighting charges;
  • Renewable Energy developments in Western NSW – Ashley Albury (Department of Premier and Cabinet, Regional Director Western NSW);
  • A Department of Planning perspective about Solar Energy developments in NSW – Mike Young, (Director Resource & Energy Assessments, DPE)
  • NSW Government Energy Initiatives, etc. Hon Rick Colless (MLC, Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW and Chair Western Mining Development Taskforce).

Mayor/Councillors and General Managers of Balranald, Warren, Gilgandra and Walgett Shires have accepted invitations to attend the workshop, network dinner on 10th May 2018 and Ordinary meeting next day on 11th May 2018.

This is what MERC set out to achieve by inviting those Councils on Minister Roberts’ recent media release on solar developments in the Western Area that were not members of MERC but may potentially become a member. Some Councils did not respond, we will do the same for the wind farming workshop in November.

Attendance at Next meetings and Workshop 10/11th May 2018

Attendances have been excellent for the 10/11th May events, with only three Councils not being able to attend due to pre set budget sessions. We have 45 for the workshop, 40 for the network dinner and similar for the Ordinary meeting on the 11th May 2018, a fantastic effort by all involved.In the afternoon after the meeting we have close to a dozen for the mine tour and races next day.

 Update on the Joint Voluntary Planning Agreement Working Party (VPAWP)

A meeting was held in Sydney on 23rd February 2018 after the Ordinary meeting with Chris Wilson, consultant appointed by the DPE (agreed to by the NSW Minerals Council and MERC to the VPA Joint Working Party). In attendance were consultant Warwick Giblin and our delegates, Clr Owen Hasler and Steve Loane to update Chris on progress with the Joint VPAWP for his report to the DPE which was due by mid April 2018. A copy of the draft report has been circulated to delegates and the MERC working party will brief the Executive Committee on the report for a recommendation to delegates to consider. Warwick has reviewed the report and forwarded comments to the working party.

The DPE are keen to capture the information agreed by the respective parties and include it in the Guidelines on VPA’S as a Practice Note or similar, but needed to have an independent interview the parties and write the report for them to consider given the opposed arguments and political sensitivities.This is a very important document for MERC to review and agree on our position to ensure Councils are not disadvantaged with the options.

Regional Independent Assessment Panel (RIAP) & Resources for Regions (R4R)

The Executive Officer attended a meeting in Sydney on 3rd May 2018 with the Deputy Premier, Hon John Barilaro; Member for Upper Hunter, Michael Johnsen; with the Mayors/General Managers of Singleton Council (Cr Sue Moore & Jason Linnane) and Cessnock City Council, (Cr Bob Pynsent & Steve Glen) representing Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils, to discuss the current Resources for Regions funding criteria.

The Association resolved that this meeting be held for the Chair and Executive Officer to attend and it was bundled with the Hunter Councils (who are members of MERC) by the office of the Deputy Premier. This was fortuitous as the Hunter Councils invited Steve Galilee from NSW Minerals Council to attend as well and so the Deputy Premier and his Senior advisor Gary Barnes (Premier & Cabinet’s Department) were able to get a clear picture of our concerns with the co – contribution requirement, quantum, the BCR and initial intention of the funding for mining affected Council’s, etc.

The meeting was very positive and the Deputy Premier gave a committment that he would review the current conditions before the next round commences, taking on board what was raised by the delegation and will look at the issues immediately and get back to the delegation as soon as possible. The current round of approved projects for Resources for Regions will be announced soon, he indicated.


The Executive Officer has been in discussion with CIBIS on the format for the new website  and will be presenting the draft format to Executive Committee to consider with the aim to have it finalised by the May meetings in Cobar. A draft of the proposed changes has been distributed to members of the Executive Committee to consider before their meeting on 10th May 2018.

Strategic Plan 2018 – 2020

The Strategic Plan 2018 – 2020 was adopted at the Special General Meeting in Sydney on 23rd February 2018 with changes reflected in the minutes of the Special General Meeting 23rd February 2018, which have now been distributed to delegates. A copy of the Strategic Plan is on the website.

The Executive Officer has developed a report format (agreed to by the Executive Committee) which will be submitted to them quarterly as part of the Ordinary meeting Executive Officer’s report with comments on progress with the actions therein.

Constitution Review

The amended Constitution has now been approved by the Department of Fair Trading and is posted on the web site. However there is one thing still to be finalised whereby the Executive Committee will consider the interpretation of “a minimum of two terms “ for Life Membership eligibility Clause 4.5 (is it two terms as a delegate of the Council for the term of the Council ie  two four year terms or two years as an annual appointment as the delegate of the Council for two terms?), for discussion by the Executive Committee at their 10th May meeting and recommendation to delegates.

Next Meetings of Association for 2018 – August and November

Arrangements have been made to have the August Executive Committee and Ordinary General Meeting in Sydney at Parliament House again on 9/10th August 2018. We will have another regional meeting in the Upper Lachlan Shire in November when its warmer!

The Executive will decide on the date for the November 2018 meetings and workshop in consultation with the Upper Lachlan Council at Crookwell or a larger Council in the region for the wind farming developments workshops and membership drive. The Upper Lachlan Shire Council have been approached and details provided on what is required, awaiting confrimation of participation.

Membership Campaign

Warren Shire Council could not attend our Sydney meeting but have resolved to send a Councillor and General Manager (Glenn Wilcox, Life Member of the Association) to our next meeting in Cobar as observers and then to report back to their Council on whether to join the Association or not. They have a very large solar farm development proposed for construction at Nevertire on Mitchell Highway, near Warren and are interested in being part of our voice.

The observer from Mid Coast Council, (M/s Lisa Schiff, Director Planning and Natural Resources) that attended our meeting in Sydney on 23rd February 2018 has reported that Mid Coast Council has resolved to become being a member of the Association, in view of coal mining development expansion in the Gloucester area which is now part of Mid Coast Council and the strategic direction of MERC. Hopefully the Solar Farm workshop and meetings at Cobar 10/11th May 2018 result in Balranald, Warren, Gilgandra and Walgett all joining the Association.

In discussions with prominent people in Local Government, the critical point of difference and selling points of our Association are that the Association is specific on its issues; has seen there is a need to be the voice for energy for Councils; is not hampered by getting involved with broader whole of state matters; has a seat at the table; its advice is sought by the government; we have experienced delegates on government working groups representing the members voices; we are not political and don’t have any collaborative problems within our group of dedicated delegates!

Why wouldn’t a Council join or or why would they leave, you have to ask the question are they truly representing their constituents under the Local Government Act when mining and energy issues are affecting their communities, are the legislated planning processes adequate to do this? Keep talking to your neighbours about the benefits of being a member of MERC.

The Executive Committee at its May meeting is to consider the adoption of a Marketing Policy to ensure membership increases by targeting more renewable energy development affected LGA’s in NSW. A Draft Membership Marketing Policy has been prepared for the Executive Committee to consider on 10th May 2018 in order to formalise and stregthen the membership campaign.

Southern NSW and New England areas will be targeted, like we have with Orana and Upper Lachlan Council areas.

 Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues in the Press (copied)

“Solar run drinking water trialled” Cole Latimer in the SMH 30TH April 2018 talks about a solar powered device that creates clean drinking water from the air is being trialled in Australia. The water produced has been tested to Australian drinking water contaminant guidelines. The portable Source Hydropanels, created by Zero Mass Water, are designed to suck moisture from the air, dehumidifying it to drain the water out before it purifies and adds minerals to the water. It is powered solely by attached solar arrays. Depending on the climate the panels can create up to 5 litres of potable water a day.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing about $420k in funding to help deploy 150 of the solar powered drinking water systems across Australia, in order to trial its ability to act as a source of water for drought stricken regions as well as reducing waste caused by plastic water bottles. Further details  Plus the CEO of ARENA Ivor F if you follow them on their website contacts.

“Big Windfall from Wind” Jamieson Murphy in the Northern Daily Leader, 28th April 2018 writes about a recent report by the Australian Wind Alliance (AWA) which estimates $10.5 billion could be delivered to host communities accross the 25 year life span of the nations existing wind farms and wind farms under construction. AWA National Coordinator, Andrew Bray said “wind power was making a long lasting contribution to rural Australia’s socila fabric. They support small towns to do that important work, often through volunteers that’s keeps the town ticking along……….” The Sapphire Wind Farm near Inverell contributes $187k a year through its community enhancement fund and White Rock near Glen Innes $175k. Refer

VPA Funded Road Between NSW Government and Dart West Almost Complete – Ministerial Media Release Department Planning, 10th April 2018

“Construction of the $45 million Gregory Hills Drive-Badgally Road link road is now complete thanks to a voluntary planning agreement between the NSW Government and Dart West. 

Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts, said this road provides a key link between the strategic centres of Camden and Campbelltown. 

“Now this link road is fully operational it ensures that residents and those driving to work have an easier journey around south-west Sydney,” Mr Roberts said. “A voluntary planning agreement between our government and Gregory Hills developers Dart West has enabled this key four-lane road to be constructed providing connectivity for the whole of the Macarthur area. 

“This road also gives residents direct access to Campbelltown and the railway station via Badgally Road.” Camden MP Chris Patterson said this is an example of how governments and developers can work effectively for the public good. “This planning agreement has guaranteed that the Macarthur community got this key link road to the Hume Highway and M5 faster,” Mr Patterson said.“Already we have seen traffic congestion reduced due to the 5km link road.” 

General Manager of Dart West Developments, David Taylor, said since the initial connection linking existing sections of Gregory Hills and Badgally Road was made in October last year residents have noted an improvement in traffic flows. “The opening of all four lanes of traffic will only just improve congestion in the road network,” Mr Taylor said. “Dart West is proud to have delivered this road and believe it will have a lasting legacy for Gregory Hills and the wider Camden and Campbelltown communities for many years to come.”

 Could the Winds of Change be blowing through the Sourthern Highlands?

I’m no expert, but I have passion and a vision. The passion is driven by my long held belief in chasing better ways to do things. The vision is to see the Highlands community support a renewable energy project that provides clean energy, creates local jobs, and produces good investment returns for Highlanders.

Can this be done? Simple answer – yes. How? We learn from other successful projects that are already up and running. It really is “join the dots” stuff. No need to reinvent the wheel. We simply stand on the shoulders of others. So who has already done this? 

A community group in Victoria – Hepburn Wind – that was established in 2007, and who have built two wind turbines of 4.1MW capacity (enough to power over 2,000 homes). 

The group is community owned, has become profitable in the last two years, has paid back more than $3.5mn in bank loans since 2011 (that were related to the project construction costs), and has contributed over $100,000 to community projects.  Hepburn Winds is a model for other communities with its strong focus on community engagement and regional economic benefits

A community group in Goulburn – Community Energy 4 Goulburn – established in 2014, is proposing to build a solar farm of 1.2MW capacity near Goulburn. This project has been confirmed by a feasibility study and is on the verge of seeking investment from the local community so they can start construction soon.

We can do this in the Southern Highlands. Many people have investigated the possibilities, but so far we have not been able to get a project going. 

On Friday, April 20 from 5.30pm, at a renewable energy forum at The Mill in Bowral, we will have the opportunity to hear from people who were integral to each of these projects, and who can help us understand how we too can realize our CORE (community renewable energy) values. 

Our guests from Hepburn Wind – Neville Oddie and Kate Redwood – will talk about how the group, which raised $9.8m to build the facility, was established as a model for other communities with its strong focus on community engagement, regional economic benefits, local jobs, community empowerment and capacity building.

The president of Community Energy 4 Goulburn venture, Ed Suttle will also be in attendance. CE4G, is a committee of eight members who have taken the proposal of a community solar powered farm from concept to imminent build. For more info see

The event will be hosted by Highlands Entrepreneurs Regional Development (known as HERD), which is in the process of establishing the Southern Highlands based incubator and accelerator.

HERD will build on the pools of talent and experience that exist in the Southern Highlands and work to attract innovative businesses to the region. Their focus is to catalyse new and scalable businesses supported by a vital innovation ecosystem within the Southern Highlands.

They intend to do this through partnering with University of Wollongong’s iAccelerator program, along with The Mill to deliver a collaborative work environment and through the facilitation of access to funds and critical expertise for early stage businesses to foster and accelerate their growth. If you wish to partner with HERD or become involved please get in touch.  Phone: 041432164 or email:

(Refer Journalist – Andrew Forbes Southern Highland News, 10th April 2018).

 GFG Alliance officially purchases Tahmoor Mine

In great news for Macarthur miners, GFG Alliance has today completed its acquisition of the Tahmoor coking coal mine previously owned by Glencore.

The mine is now officially under the ownership of GFG’s SIMEC Mining division following ministerial approval. The Tahmoor mine – which employs more than 300 people – produces about two million tonnes of coking coal each year. The coal is used for primary steel making in blast furnaces in Australia and across the globe. GFG executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta said the mine was highly regarded in domestic and international markets for its grade and quality.

“I am delighted to welcome the Tahmoor mine employees and surrounding community into our GFG family,” he said “The acquisition of the Tahmoor mine is an exciting step forward in our strategy to create fully-integrated, end-to-end businesses in Australia, from raw material and energy right through to high-value finished products ready for market.

“Through this purchase, we secure and de-risk an important feed for the Whyalla Steelworks. This, together with our iron ore mines in South Australia, now makes GFG the only fully-integrated Australian steel producer, whether from iron ore and coking coal to primary steel, or from scrap metal and renewable energy to GREENSTEEL.”

(Refer Wollondilly Advertiser 20th April 2018). Thanks to Clr Michael Banasik for forwarding these articles, more welcome for delegates relating to your LGA’s. 


 If you have any queries in relation to this newsletter please do not hesitate to contact the Chair or the Executive Officer to see how we can assist you in your busy role as a Council delegate to the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils.

Our contacts are:- Chair, Clr Peter Shinton, by email or phone at Council on 02 68492000 or the Executive Officer, Greg Lamont, by email or or phone on 0407937636.


Greg Lamont                                                                                     Clr Peter Shinton

Executive Officer                                                                               Chair