MERC Newsletter – August 2019


Delegates, here is the August 2019 MERC Newsletter.This newsletter has a lot of important information and interesting articles 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.


Update on the Voluntary Planning Agreement Steering Committee

Another meeting of the Steering Committee was held on 23 August 2019, to consider the position papers distributed by MERC & NSW Minerals Council on what should be in the Guidelines for VPA’s and put into a VPA framework agreement (including scope and calculation methodologies) and if substantial progress cannot be made, both parties agreed that the future of the Committee should be considered.

The meeting had some surprises with:

  • Changes in the representation of the DPIE. Previously they were to take an observer role, however Mike Young replaced Stephen Barry as the DPIE person with a minute taker and Mike was actively involved in discussions indicating changes were on the horizon;
  • The NSWMC also was very co-operative and admitted to now seeing what MERC was trying to achieve with a flexible list of methodology options where any of them could be used and agreed that a final document could have all options outlined without a stipulation that there be a worker domicile model in every option;
  • It was agreed that NSWMC prepare a draft document to embrace all methodologies and submit to the MERC VPA working party for consideration and to submit back to NSWMC and DPIE by 6th September 2019 for consideration;
  • There is no need for a further meeting of the Steering Committee if agreement can be reached on the Framework paper which is highly likely.

The MERC VPA working party has requested Oz Environmental to cast an eye over the paper and comment by 6th September to the MERC VPA working party. It is looking likely that MERC will receive the agreed document in the November business papers at last.


Resources for Regions (R4R) versus a Royalties for Regions.

MERC will continue to canvas the new NSW Government for changes to the current Resources for Regions program to resemble a Royalties for Regions one. There is widespread support for changing the existing program to a Royalties for Region program with a set percentage being allocated to mining and energy affected Councils for infrastructure, social and economic impact addressing.

Hon John Barilaro has advised he was unable to attend the MERC meeting on 9th August to discuss Resources for Regions reform, however he organised for his Senior Policy Officer (Olivia Graham) and Policy Officer (Alysia Smith) to meet with a delegation from MERC on 9th August in the afternoon to meet and discuss the current program and alternative approaches to ensure a reasonable return of royalties to invest inregional infrastructure programs.

After a positive hearing from Olivia and Alysia, a further meeting was organised by them for the MERC delegation to meet with Resources NSW staff (Caitlin Sandercock & Jonathon Wheaton – Chris Hangar was unavailable however it was pointed out that these people have been given the responsibility to design a new R4R program under the auspice of senior staffer, Gary Barnes) for an official review of the Resources for Regions program on 23rd August 2019.

The Agenda for the meeting on 23rd August 2019, reflected that the government want to:

  • reset the objectives of the program;
  • review the measures that best determine the extent to which communities are mining impacted (environmental, social & economic);
  • what scope of activity should the program be funding to best deliver on the objectives; and
  • whether it should be fixed funding or competitive tension.

The delegation consisted of Cr Sue Moore, Deputy Chair; Cr Owen Hasler, Executive Committee; Steve Loane and Greg Lamont, Executive Officer who raised the concerns about the need for  the source of funds NOT being tied to a BCR > 1, do away with the co-contribution and $1m limit, establishment of mining affectation criteria other than the current location quotient method, the competitive nature of grant applications versus need, being tied to the Community Strategic Plan, etc. These issues were acknowledged as being in need of reconsideration by the Resources NSW staff

Resources for NSW have engaged UTS Institute of Public Policy to assist with the review and have indicated that the Resources NSW staff will attend our meeting in Gloucester on 8th November 2019 to discuss progress and for further input, if needed. Singleton Council have also had extensive input with the Deputy Premier’s Department staff on their ideas about how a reformed R4R should look as well. So MERC and its members representations are having a major input into how the program will look in the future. They plan to have the new R4R implemented early in 2020.


Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

Given the changes to the Planning and Environment portfolios in Cabinet recently (Hon Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning & Public Places) is back in charge of this very important portfolio, consequently, it is not known if RAF will be retained nor is it likely that a further meeting will be held within the next few months.

If it is scrapped, this will mean that a lot of important relevant information that delegate Cr Hasler (Gunnedah Shire Council) regularly relayed to MERC, will not occur, which will be a shame. MERC resolved at its meetings on 8/9th August to write to the Minister Planning & Public Spaces for the retention of the initiatives put in place by the previous management such as RAF requesting its retention and for the inclusion of a MERC delegate at RAF.


Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 7th November 2019 at 9am at the Aerodrome, Gloucester, followed by a mine tour organised by Mid Coast Council from 1pm and the Ordinary General Meeting next day on 8th November 2019 at 9am, the Ordinary meeting will be held in the Gloucester RSL Auditorium.

Discussions with Donna Hudson from the MidCoast Council regarding details for accommodation, meetings, mine tour and network dinner have resulted in the establishment of some great arrangements which will be finalised soon, just waiting on confirmations. A tour on the Thursday afternoon is being organised to a coal mine, an old gold mine with bush tucker sampling and a presentation on the recent Rocky Hill mine court case which prevented the mine from operating in a pristine area at the network dinner on Thursday which will be at the Avon Valley Inn, 82 Church St, Gloucester.

The General Manager of MidCoast Council, Adrian Pannucio, attended the MERC meeting on 9th August and distributed a welcome package promoting the regional places to visit on the Mid Coast. Inside the brochures were a lot of options on accommodation and tourist attractions.

For the meetings 7/8th November 2019, the accommodation options are many and varied and all of them can be found on the site or on the MidCoast Council site. Motels in Gloucester:

  • Bucketts Way Motel, 19 Church St, ph 02 65582588,
  • Coppers Hill Motel, 11 Church St, ph 0427589075,
  • Roundabout Inn Motel & Pub, 28 Church St 02 65581816,
  • King St Boutique Motel, 52 King St ph 02 65589020;
  • Gloucester Country Lodge Motel, 4663 92 (2k out on the Buckets Way)

Gloucester Caravan Park end of Denison St at Boundary St, ph 02 65581720, B & B’s, self contained units and riverside cabins are available.

The meeting cycle for 2020 will be determined at the Annual General Meeting. Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in consultation with the host Councils, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months is what MERC is working on for your diaries. This fits in with Country Mayors and the member Council meeting cycles.


Membership Campaign

The Association at its May meeting in 2018, adopted a Marketing Policy to ensure membership increases by targeting more renewable energy development affected LGA’s in NSW and to formalise and strengthen the membership campaign. If any delegates have any colleagues in Local Government that may be interested in being part of our voice, please contact the Executive Officer.


Speakers for next meetings of MERC

The Executive Officer is finalising the following speakers for the meeting in Gloucester 8th November 2019:

  • Caitlin Sandercock, Jonathon Wheaton & Chris Hangar, Resources NSW, on review of Resources for Regions and the new program details ;
  • Hon Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture & Minister for Western NSW on regional issues;

MERC is awaiting confirmation from the following speakers for future meetings:

  • Hon Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning & Public Spaces, Liberal Party;
  • Hon Matt Kean, Minister for Energy & Environment, Liberal Party;
  • Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Investment & Trade, Leader of NSW National Party.

Other relevant Opposition party members and government senior officers will also be pursued for meetings as required.


Life Membership Updates – Mitchell & Connor

Life membership badge, plaque and certificate will be presented to ex Cr Chris Connor at the November Ordinary meeting in Gloucester. Col has advised he will liaise with the Executive Officer to attend a future meeting when able to in view of his ongoing medical treatments.


Coal Seam Gas Policy

The amended Coal Seam Gas Policy has now been improved with the addition of the double casing minimum and cementing of all bores from the well head (ground) to the production horizon (extraction zone at the bottom of the well) details, however there are still some minor changes to be made in the wording to reflect statutory changes since the policy was first adopted in 2014 and is still not been finalised. Thereafter, a copy of the amended policy will be forwarded to delegates for their information and/or consideration.


Research Fellowship Update

In recent discussions with the PhD student, arrangements are being made to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the UTS which will outline details on insurances, performance measures, exit strategies, roles, finances, etc. Peter Dupen and Juan Castilla – Rho addressed delegates at the August meeting on progress with the project, grant options and possible projects.

The NSW Minerals Council CEO have been approached about being part of this PhD project as a sponsor and the CEO requested a submission which has been forwarded to him. Since then, the Executive Officer, PhD student Peter and Professor Juan Castilla – Rho, Chair Cr Peter Shinton and Cr Owen Hasler met with them on 9th August 2019 to present the case to the NSWMC Director of Planning. The meeting with NSWMC didn’t engender much confidence in them coming on board initially however time was limited and Peter and Juan were going to approach them to do a full presentation with CEO Steve Galilee present.

In the meantime, Peter Dupen is canvassing other entities to be involved in the project as sponsors and is seeking other grant options.


Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

“Councils declare climate emergencies” July 17th 2019, Rebecca Gredley, Australia Associated Press (AAP) writes: Millions live in areas facing a “climate emergency” as a rising number of councils advocate action. Close to three million Australians are living in a declared “climate emergency”, as more local councils take a stand and demand urgent action. But the federal environment minister thinks councils should stick to collecting the bins. About five per cent, or 28, of the nation’s 537 local councils have called for urgent climate action, with some planning to move their chambers to 100 per cent renewable energy. The Australian councils are part of 800 across the globe to have declared climate emergencies, encompassing more than 140 million people worldwide. The tally is being tracked by Climate Emergency Mobilisation, an advocate group based in Australia. Victoria’s Darebin City Council was the first to take the leap in 2016. Darebin has taken a steering role among other local administrations, leading a national climate emergency conference last year.

The most recent Australian summer was the hottest in recorded history, with fruit cooking on trees while bushfires and floods crippled local communities. The council group includes the ACT government, which has pledged to prioritise emission reductions in its decision-making. The Sydney and Hobart city councils have also made the call.

Some councils are aiming for 100 per cent renewable energy and zero net emissions, with others instead pledging to lobby state and federal politicians on climate change action. South Australia’s Gawler Town Council is preparing community action plans for extreme weather events, including providing safe shelters for the homeless in heatwaves.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley did not say if she would declare such an emergency, but she thinks local councils should focus on dealing with local environmental issues, such as household rubbish. “I think ratepayers would expect to see their councils leading practical action on local environmental issues and focusing on things they can address locally,” Ms Ley told AAP. “Local government plays an important environmental role managing waste and recycling, and in maintaining local areas. I think that is what local communities would most like to see from their councils.”

The minister said the government had been clear about the need to tackle climate change, with its $3.5 billion climate solutions plan and $100 million for environmental restoration.

But the Australian Greens believe the government must go a step further. “Australia needs to follow the lead of other governments here and abroad by declaring a climate emergency,” Melbourne MP Adam Bandt told AAP. “The Greens are working with other MPs to get federal parliament to take this significant step.” For more details refer


“Fresh threats to solar plant construction boom” Angela McDonald Smith, Australian Financial Review, 8th August 2019, writes: After grappling with grid bottlenecks and the collapse of a contractor, the large-scale solar power sector is now facing a new set of risks.

Investors and suppliers involved in Australia’s booming large-scale solar sector are grappling with an escalation of risks around pricing, grid access and profitability that are threatening to dramatically slow the industry’s rampant growth.

Construction of the country’s mega pipeline of large solar plants has fallen behind schedule this year, with transmission constraints, grid connections, policy uncertainty and the fallout from the collapse of constructor RCR Tomlinson all coming into play, according to consultancy Rystad Energy. For more details refer


‘Coal towns see sulphur spike” 26th August 2019, Industrial Careers article.

An international review has found Australian regions with coal-fired power stations are among hot spots for sulphur dioxide pollution. The new report drawing on NASA data found pollution hotspots in the La Trobe Valley in Victoria and the Hunter Valley in NSW. It ranks Australia as the world’s 12th biggest emitted of sulphur dioxide (SO2) – which is emitted largely by the burning of fossil fuels and the extraction of copper. The report is accessible here.

The biggest source of SO2 in Australia is a complex of mining operations with lead and copper smelters in Queensland’s Mount Isa. India is the top emitter, followed by Russia, China, Mexico and Iran, according to the Greenpeace report. The regions that made the list are near at least one coal-burning power station. The Victorian SO2 hotspot covers an area populated by 470,000 people, while the NSW area covers 1.7 million.

Sulphur dioxide reacts to form toxic particles that contribute to health conditions such as dementia and heart and lung disease.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Jonathan Moylan says air pollution contributes to more premature deaths each year than road accidents. He believes the data should compel authorities to consider urgently replacing coal-fired power stations. “Australia’s power stations are some of the dirtiest in the world because they are allowed to emit up to eight times more air pollution that power stations in China,” Mr Moylan said.

The federal and state and territory environmental ministers are reviewing Australia’s sulphur dioxide standards, which are currently 10 times higher than those in World Health Organization guidelines. For mrore details go to


Hydro project to flush gold town” 4th September 2019, Industrial Careers article. Proponents are plugging a big pumped hydro project at Kidston in North Queensland. Kidston – located about 270km north-west of Townsville – currently has just four permanent residents, a big drop from its heyday as a gold mining hub in decades past. Now, two disused gold mine pits are set to be converted into Australia’s fourth pumped storage hydro facility.

Genex Power says its 250mW Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project has secured most approvals and funding, including a Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loan of up to $610 million. One of the last hurdles was getting the Queensland Government to help fund the construction of a high voltage transmission line to link the project to the National Electricity Market.

Queensland has this week announced Powerlink will build a single circuit transmission line and substations from Kidston to Mount Fox, as part of a $132 million package. There have been years of debate about the proposed transmission line, as it traverses 16 privately-owned properties.

The owner of one of the properties has fought against the route because of concerns it would ruin his organic certification for his cattle, fruit trees, and crops.

Queensland Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Anthony Lynham, said Powerlink would consider all concerns. “Powerlink will be negotiating with properties and they will be starting very shortly indeed,” he said. “Their concerns are certainly taken into account.”

Genex CEO James Harding says the pumped hybro project will create more than 350 construction jobs over three and a half years — mostly fly in, fly out from Townsville — as well as around 700 construction jobs when building the transmission line, solar and wind components of the project.

“We have an expectation there will be between 20 to 25 long-term direct employment positions and you can multiply that by a factor of two or three for indirect jobs,” Mr Harding said.

Experts say the Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro project will boost electricity stability. “There is an urgent need for this pumped storage capacity,” Professor Jamie Pittock from the Fenner School of Environment at Australian National University (ANU) has told the ABC. “More and more Australians are putting solar panels on the roof and we’re seeing this welcome investment in wind farms. We need to be able to store the excess electricity when the wind is blowing at 2am or the sun is burning bright at lunch time.”

ANU engineering professor Andrew Blakers agreed that it would be beneficial. North Queensland can supply anticorrelated solar and wind electricity to the south,” Dr Blakers said. “Wind and solar, supported by storage in north Queensland, can make north Queensland independent of grid disruptions for electricity flowing from the south.”

The Genex CEO said the project would reduce wholesale electricity prices. “The effect of the pumped hydro project generating into the network in peak times will act to depress those peak prices,” Mr Harding said. “The overall benefit will be over $500 million over the term of the project.” For more details refer


“Coal approval linked to Paris Agreement’ 3rd September 2019, Industrial Careers article. The new United Wambo open cut coal ‘super pit’ for NSW’s Hunter Valley has been approved with export conditions.

NSW’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has given the green light to the $381 million United Wambo Coal Project, allowing it to extract an additional 150 million tonnes over a 23-year period.

However, the IPC has stipulated that any coal extracted from the new ‘super pit’ near Singleton can only be exported to countries that have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, or effective greenhouse gas-reduction policies.

Environmentalists have welcomed the conditions. “A condition like this has never been imposed on an Australian coal mine in my experience,” said Lock The Gate coordinator Georgina Woods. “It is unprecedented really to start putting the Australian coal export industry, of which the Hunter is really the core, into a global context of climate change and efforts to mitigate it.”

The Wambo Coal Mine and United Coal Mine, which has been under care and maintenance since 2010, will now be joined as one new ‘super pit’ operation. The companies behind the joint venture, Glencore and Peabody, say the revived mine will provide 500 full-time-equivalent jobs and extract up to 10 million tonnes a year for 23 years, running 24 hours, seven days a week.

The NSW Minerals Council has labelled the export condition as “curious” but welcomed the approval.

“It’s a good shot in the arm for the sector to see this approval after so long,” chief executive Stephen Galilee said. “I know from visiting the site recently that there was a lot of anxiety among the workforce there in relation to this application and to have it approved … will give them a lot of peace of mind for the future.” Mr Galilee said minimising the impacts of mining is an “ongoing challenge”.

“As an industry, we’re very aware of the need to minimise our impacts and maximise the benefits and that is a heightened awareness because so many of our mining families live in those communities near the mines where they work,” he said.

“We support the Paris Climate Agreement, our industry supports the national government of Australia meeting its Paris Climate Agreement commitments. “We know we have a role to play there.”

Glencore and Peabody say they are “currently in the process of reviewing the details within the IPC’s conditions of approval”. Refer for more detials


“Littleproud demands dams” 3rd September 2019, Industrial Careers article: Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has slammed state governments for not building dams. With extended drought conditions continuing, some towns in New South Wales and Queensland are running out of drinking water.

Mr Littleproud says building dams is not a federal government responsibility, and states have done very little to help. “The states are doing three-fifths of bugger all in terms of building infrastructure to supply urban water as well as agricultural water,” he told reporters in the South Australian town of Renmark. We have to hold them to account.”

Of the 19 dams built since 2003, 16 have been in Tasmania. Mr Littleproud says the eastern states need to do more. “They’ve abrogated their responsibility on so many occasions,” he said. “They use us as their ATM when they hit a problem but they don’t deserve sometimes to have the responsibility they have.”

He said the federal government has billions on the table for states to invest in water infrastructure.

He had some slightly more positive words in regard to delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. “The yelling and screaming has stopped,” Mr Littleproud said. “If we all play nice, we lead rather than politicise, we can get this done.”

Mr Littleproud has toured the southern basin with interim Murray-Darling Basin inspector general Mick Keelty.



Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) 0268492000 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,