MERC Newsletter – February 2018


Delegates, here is the February 2018 Newsletter under the new name of the “Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils (NSW) Incorporated” as approved by the Department of Fair Trading and the acronym as determined by delegates, after much discussion, is 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. Option B was circulated to delegates with the business papers. The graphic design has to be checked for copyright and so the logo format has not yet been finalised to put on our correspondence and website.

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 May Ordinary meeting will be held in Cobar, likely to be held in the Cobar Golf Club Auditorium to commence from 9.00am on 11th May 2018 and finish at 1.00pm. The Executive Committee will meet at 9.00am also likely to be at the same venue.

The afternoon workshop on Thursday 10th May 2018 will commence at 1.00pm with a keynote speaker (hopefully someone to speak on Solar Energy as an energy source or similar energy entity of national high standing) and representatives from Councils in the Orana region (members and non members) that have been through the solar farming development process to share the lessons learnt, to outline the pitfalls and best practices.

So far Bogan Shire Council, Dubbo Regional Council and Warren Shire Council have indicated their interest is presenting. Other Council’s outlined in the recent media release from Minister Roberts on Solar Farm developments will be invited to attend and /or present on their Solar Farm development experiences. Watch this space…..

To assist bookings need to be made early so Cobar Shire Council have provided the following details for the accommodation. Note travel will be limited to flying to Dubbo and hiring vehicles or arrange a private air charter to Cobar Airport, at this stage:

Cobar Central Motor Inn

18 Murray Street, Cobar NSW 2835; Phone: 02 6830 2000; Email:  Website:

Cobar Town and Country Motor Inn

52 Marshall Street, Cobar NSW 2835; Phone: 02 6836 1244


Cobar Oasis Motel

76 Marshall Street, Cobar NSW 2835; Phone: 02 6836 2844; Email: Website:

Copper City Motel

40 Lewis Street, Cobar NSW 2835; Phone: 02 6836 2404;Email: Website:

Cobar Caravan Park

101 Marshall Street, Cobar NSW 2835; Phone: 02 6836 2425; Email: Website:

There is also accommodation available at the Crossroads Motel, Great Western and Empire Hotels if having difficulty getting a booking. This is a mining town with high demand for the facilities. The Cobar races are on Saturday 12th May 2018, which the Mayor of Cobar Shire Council and Deputy Chair of the Association, Clr. Lilliane Brady, would like delegates to stay for and to have a look around the Shire before returning, there is a lot of interesting places to see in this historic mining and rural services Shire.

Attendance at Next meeting 11th May 2018

Just a regular reminder to delegates we always need to guarantee we have a Quorum for the Ordinary Meeting on 11th May 2018. Therefore your presence is recommended. Attendance at the meetings in Sydney were excellent, thank you, now for Cobar.

Your advice on who is attending from your Council, as soon as possible to the Executive Officer by email would be appreciated to ensure we have a quorum and for catering purposes. Currently, the Association has 19 members so that means half plus one for a quorum. Agendas will be out about ten to seven days before the meetings as per the constitution. The Executive Officer will send out a Meeting Notice reminder in April and in the next few Newsletters.

 Speakers at the Ordinary Meeting on 23rd February 2018

Having the meeting in Parliament House assisted in having the Minister for Energy, Resources, Utilities and the Arts, Don Harwin; Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations & Resources, Adam Searle; senior staff from the DPE, Katharine Hole and Felicity Greenway; the President of the LGNSW, Linda Scott all attend and speak to delegates. Details of their speeches will be forwarded if and when they are received. The venue in the Jubilee room was an excellent venue for future meetings and the staff were very co operative. Rick Colless’ office was responsible for booking the venue for MERC so same again for August.

Intelligence Briefing & Information Sharing Segment

Warwick Giblin, Oz Environmental, conducted our first segment on the political, buraeucratic,  and industry happenings with an update on current and emerging issues in the mining and energy space in order to keep delegates better informed. It is proposed to have these briefings when meetings are held in Sydney twice a year. The Strategic Plan has actions in it to ensure delegates have industry experts address them to ensure they are up to date with the latest happenings in the state, particularly as the energy debate unfolds and more energy developments commence.

Unfortunately, a lot of the information provided by the consultant was a repeat on what the earlier speakers had said which was unavoidable as they were on the latest statistics plus the time taken up by the speakers beforehand had an impact on how the segment was received by delegates.This can be improved with different topics, speaker time limits and questions being submitted prior. Despite this the meetings concluded on time.

 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 by mid April 2018. A copy of the draft will be considered by the delegates beforehand.

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.

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

The Executive Officer as the delegate for the Association attended a RIAP meeting in Sydney on 1st March 2018. There was $50.6m on the table for assessment of the 24 shortlisted applications from the last R4R 2017 round for recommendation to the CEO Infrastructure NSW thereafter for a Cabinet decision, however not all the funds were committed as they did not meet the requirements despite being shortlisted. The Executive Officer cannot release any specific details due to confidentiality obligations but has given a commitment to members to provide information to assist members where possible when submitting future applications.

The Guidelines were specific and required Councils to meet them (eg have a 50% co – contribution which was not Restart NSW funded, etc is one). They were pre rated by Infrastructure NSW in conjunction with senior officers from Treasury and Premiers and Cabinet in accordance with methodology developed to rate against the criteria in the published Guidelines and the applications submitted. A probity auditor from the private sector was present to ensure applications met the Guidelines.

The Panel then considered what was recommended from the senior officers and had no other option than to consider and endorse those projects that complied and were recommended. However where projects did not meet the criteria eg didn’t have the 50% co contribution but had merit taking into account the other criteria assessed against the Guidelines they were noted by the Panel. Hopefully the CEO has some discretion to agree to help the applicants that were in this position in the future.

However, one has to question the need to have a Panel in place on the current basis and Guidelines. The process needs to be reviewed to ensure the money from royalties goes back into the mining affected communities they were raised from to assist Councils and their communities with infrastructure upgrades.

 Delegates expressed their concern at the Ordinary meeting on 23rd February 2018 about the Resources for Regions program and how it has deviated from what was first intended and resolved that the Association meet with relevant Ministers to outline concerns about the co-contribution requirements imposed on small rural Councils, the stringent cost benefit analysis approach and its deviation from its original intention of putting royalty funds back into the mining affected Councils.


The Executive Committee has accepted the offer from CIBIS to  modernise our website. As you can see from the website there is a lot of changes to be done and the presentation modernised. The addition of a new Strategic Plan, Logo and amended constitution will be part of the exercise in consultation with the Executive Officer and Executive Committee.

Review of Strategic Framework (Plan) 2018 – 2020

The Strategic Plan 2018 – 2020 was adopted at the Special General Meeting in Sydney on 23rd February 2018 with a change to the Vision to read “As the peak body in NSW, empowering, resourcing and advocating on behalf of local councils impacted by mining and energy production”. The name of the Association has changed to the ”Association of Mining and Energy Related Councils (NSW) Incorporated” (MERC). Department of Fair Trading has registered our new name and provided a certificate of Incorporation. Other chnages were to vary the Action in the Strategic Plan for the development of a Marketing Policy in the Resourcing Section (Deliverables and Performance Measures) to be undertaken by the Executive Committee and to not establish a working party. Plus it was agreed to list the names of the respective Working Parties in the Strategic Plan.

Constitution Review

Changes to the Constitution for name changes, details in clauses therein relating to “mining and energy related” matters, representation, voting policy/procedures and minor typographicals were adopted in readiness for the Strategic Plan 2017 – 2020 on 17th November 2017.

The Constitution has been rewritten to incorporate all of the changes made at the Special General Meeting held on 17th November 2017 and now the Department of Fair Trading want it adopted as a new document. Consequently, it was presented to the Special General Meeting on 23rd February 2018 and adopted with several more changes to complement the Strategic directional changes and further clarify interpretations of the content therein which have not been debated for a long time in the vigorous manner they were at the meeting on 23rd February 2018 which are now reflected in the Document Controlled Appendix attached to the Constitution. This will be re submitted to the Departmnet of Fair Trading.

The changes are repeated in this Newsletter as clarification of the debate and decisions, as follows:

  • Clause 4.5 Life Membership – Clarification of “a minimum of two terms”, being two terms as a delegate of the Council term or two terms as an annual appointment as a delegate. It was agreed that this be considered by the Executive Committee for a recommendation to a future Special General meeting to be held prior to the Annual General Meeting.
  • Clause 7.1 Executive of the Association – That the need for two Deputy Chairpersons remain but without the qualification for Coal and Metalliferrous.
  • Clauses 14.6.1 and Voting – Contested Elections, discard the need for the separation of Coal and Metalliferrous as Deputy Chairpersons in the annual elections.
  • Clauses & Candidates Nominations and Resumes – The clarification of nominations and seconders. Clause to read “The candidates for the positions in Clauses 14.6.1 and 14.6.2 should forward their nominations on the form provided to reach the Executive Officer not later than 4.30pm one week prior to the Annual General Meeting. Candidates should ensure their nomination is seconded by a current Association delegate. This may take the form of the seconder signing the candidate’s nomination form or alternatively by sending an email confirming their intent to second the nomination to reach the Executive Officer by the date of the election.” Clause is deleted as being redundant and is now part of the amended Clause

 Next Meetings of Association for 2018 – August and November

The Association has its next meeting in Cobar in 10/11th May 2018 and arrangements are being made to have the August meeting in Sydney at Parliament House again, we will work around the Country Mayors date on 3rd August 2018 and have been informed that 8/9th and 15/16th August are available with the latter when both houses are sitting. 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 meeting in consultation with the Upper Hunter Council at Crookwell or a larger Council in the region for the wind farming developments workshops and membership drive.

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 there is strong interest in Mid Coast Council (under the current leadership) 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 Executive Officer and Chair will recive an invitation to address the Council soon.

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.

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

“The Australian Mining Review”  In the February 2018 publication, there is a four page A3 spread in it outlining mining in Cobar Shire Council under the heading “A town diversified” written by Elizabeth Fabri and with comments from the Council’s Director Corporate & Economic Development, Angela Sheherd. The article outlines the challenges the Council, miners and community face with a lack of water, no regular passenger air transport operator, the cost of energy and being able to attract and retain skilled workers. Despite this, the future is bright with positive exploration and expansions. The extent of the underground geology is unknown and modern technology is finding more minerals daily that previous explorers have missed. The mining fraternity have invested in the social fabric of the community with the formation of a community committee to commemorate the  miners that have lost their lives in the Shire over the years and festivals to celebrate mining. Refer for full details.

Blast plume raises concerns” In the Singleton Argus on 14th February 2018, journalist Louise Nichols indicated that a mine blast plume was reported by Bulga residents causing dust and a nasty sulphur odour. It is being investigated by the EPA. The miner had not been identified. In the same article, it was reported that two recent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) public meetings were held in Singleton to discuss Yancoal’s mining expansions and modifications however very few people attended but those that did all spoke on the issue of air quality.They repeated their concerns about the cumulative impacts from all the mines and espaecially during the current hot dry weather conditions. Refer for full details.

‘”Preferential treatment: Rejected coalminer granted unusual legal rights” Peter Hannam on 4th February 2018 in the Sydney Morning Herald reported the Berejiklian govenment has given the developer of a proposed coal mine near Gloucester the unusual right to challenge the project’s refusal in court, an opportunity routinely denied mining opponents. Previously PAC had rejected Gloucester Resources Ltd’s proposal to begin an open cut mine near Gloucester. The PAC found “the economic benefits of the mine with a 220 metre pit being within a kilometre of homes were outweighed by the detriment to the quality of life for residents near the mine site”. Refer for more details.

Proof we’ve got power over Vics” Kylar Loussikian on 1st March 2018 reports in the Daily Telegraph that NSW Electricity keeps Melbourne lights on! NSW power stations kept the lights on in Victoria over the sweltering summer, including during the Australian Open when energy regulators warned of rolling black out threats for our southern neighbours. NSW has exported 2577 per cent more power to Victoria during December to end of February 2018 compared to last summer.The closure of Hazelwood power plant in Victoria in March last year contributed to that. AGL in NSW is to spend $200m to upgrade the Bayswater power station by replacing ageing turbines to provide electricity to 100,000 homes when Liddell closes down. The NSW Minister for Energy, Don Harwin said Sydney “had remained in good shape” this summer because of the lessons learnt last year, when the city was plunged into crisis and families urged to go to shopping centres etc to save power at home”. Refer to for more details.

Electricty bill wipes out profit for small businesses”  Jane Hansen in the Sunday Telegraph, 11th February 2018 reports that a small family business at Wongarbon near Dubbo had an increase in their quarterly electricity bill which had tripled in five years taking their profits. With the sweltering heat, the airconditioners had to be kept on to ensure the stock didn’t melt. The article also talks about the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is holding an enquiry into the enrgy market and they have released a preliminary report which indicates the small business in Wongarbon is not alone. The business owner said he has no other option but to go solar however he has to find the outlay to do it!!!! Refer for details.

Coal has a role in avoiding SA – style blackouts” Stephen Galilee (CEO, NSW Minerals Council) writes in the Daily Telegraph on 23rd February 2018 and outlines the situation NSW is facing in the lead up to 2019 and 2023 elections once Liddell closes in 2022 and urges the state government to act now in case AGL’s plans to replace Liddell with a combination of renewables and batteries and have a vague plan to replace the 1600 megawatts of baseline power that Liddell generated. He points out that in countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Phiilipines and Malaysia they are locking in affordable and reliable electricity through High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) coal fired power plants that are supplied with high quality coal produced in NSW. Steve questions if this is good enough for these countries, why not here, to avoid any SA – style blackouts? For more detials refer to


 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 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

Comments are closed.