MERC Newsletter – February 2019


Delegates, here is the February 2019 MERC Newsletter. 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.

Update on the Voluntary Planning Agreement Steering Committee

The first meeting of the Steering Committee, chaired by Stephen Free SC was held in Sydney on 15th February 2019, to address the outstanding issues with the quantum options for a VPA, etc to finalise this in 2019. The next meeting has been set down for 2nd May 2019.

At this meeting, it was agreed what the role of the Chair is to be (facilitate not arbitrate) and the role of the DPE (as observers). As well the parties have to verify the previously agreed negotiation framework and roads contributions calculator versions before the next meeting.

That left the outstanding issues to be resolved on the methodologies or principles for calculating non road contributions. Once position papers are prepared by NSWMC (on the implications of autonomous mining for VPAs) and MERC (to review Umwelt’s Worker Domicile Model, identify any impacts which are not included in that model which MERC considers should be the subject of financial contributions through VPAs, plus the methodologies for their calculation). The papers are to be distributed to parties before the next meeting when they will be considered.

MERC has engaged Oz Environmental to assist with this position paper, as they were part of the original working party and have done a lot of work on this already for MERC. The MERC VPA Steering Committee will seek delegates input in due course before the meeting on 2nd May 2019. The parties are aiming to have an agreed position by end of 2019.

Resources for Regions (R4R) versus a Royalties for Regions Media Release

MERC Executive Committee agreed at its meeting 7th February 2019 that a media release be prepared and forwarded to outlets throughout NSW to obtain as much coverage about the failure of the current Resources for Regions program to provide infrastructure for regions and the need for it to be replaced with a Royalties fro Regions program. This is supported by Labor, the Shooters, Fishers,& Farmers at State level and Federally former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

This is to occur through the Northern Daily Leader journalist Jamieson Murphy with publications in the Namoi Valley Independent and Country Leader. Deputy Chair Cr Lilliane Brady OAM, Cobar Shire Council has also given this a run on the ABC and Cobar News recently as has the Mayor of Broken Hill Cr Darriea Turley. A copy of the media release forwarded to Jamieson Murphy is as follows:


 The Chair of the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils NSW (MERC), Councillor Peter Shinton, said today: “The rural and regional Councils of NSW, affected by the impacts from mining and related activities, have not received a fair proportion of the royalties the mining companies have paid into the consolidated revenue coffers of the Government. The intention of the royalties levy on the miners is that funds are supposed to be returned to the regions from where they were levied (in part), to assist with addressing our infrastructure shortcomings and with the social and economic impacts. This hasn’t been occurring since this Coalition government has been in power.”

He said “Our Association has recognised this shortcoming on behalf of its’ members and requested the leaders of the major political parties to improve the situation and adopt a ‘Royalties for Regions’ program approach similar to WA, in order to replace the existing Resources for Regions program with its stringent criteria to a program that has a set percentage of the royalties being returned direct to the Councils, as a March 2019 election platform”.

“We invited them to address delegates at our quarterly meeting on this topic in Sydney on 8th February 2019, however only Labor attended the meeting and albeit Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party leaders advised that they could not attend, they, Labor and the NSW Minerals Council all support a Royalties for Regions program as outlined by the Association, on behalf of its members”.

Adam Searle, Labor MLC, Opposition Leader of the Upper House and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, accompanied by MLC Mick Veitch, Shadow Minister for Lands and Rural Affairs, said to delegates that ”the NSW Coalition Government committed in 2011 to spend over $160m on the current Resources for Regions program but spent just $105m. In 2015, the State Government announced it would continue the program in similar amounts over the next four years, yet there have been only two rounds of the expected four and the allocations have been reduced”

He also said that “a Daley Labor Government will end asset sales as the source of investment in mining communities, in lieu of royalties, they will ensure that mining communities have a greater say in the distribution of funds, remove the need for a co contribution by Councils of 50 per cent, give mining communities greater certainty and confidence of the amounts distributed, the distribution of funds to be in a planned evidence based manner rather than an ad hoc pork barrelling exercise that the Resources for Regions program has now become”.

 He said “In government, to do this, we will develop a new model for Resources for Regions, linked to a proportion of mining royalties to be invested in mining affected communities, this to be aimed at least the same level of funding as was committed to be invested under the present program by the Coalition Government. This hasn’t been done, they have let the regional communities down”.

Cr Shinton from the Association said “As there is likely to be a change of government, this will be a victory for the hard working delegates at MERC, who have been lobbying Ministers and senior government officials for many years, on behalf of the concerned residents and member Councils they represent, in order to rectify the issues with regional infrastructure funding”.

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

Clr Hasler (MERC delegate to RAF) has reported with the election on 23rd March 2019, it is not likely that a further meeting will be held until several months after the elections. The government is now in caretaker mode.

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 9th May 2019 at Forbes, the Ordinary General Meeting next day on 10th February 2019, both meetings starting at 9am. The Forbes Shire Council Events Coordinator has been in touch with the Executive Officer aiming to have a tour of the Central West Livestock Exchange, a Wind Farm and a Solar farm at this stage in the afternoon of 9th May 2019 from 1pm for early arrivals with a network dinner that evening.

The August meeting is to be held in Sydney at Club York, Bass rooms on 8/9th August 2019 (same as February meeting) and Mid Coast Council have now confirmed they will host the November meetings in Gloucester with 7/8th November 2019 for Gloucester. Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in due course, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months is what we are working on for your diaries.

Membership Campaign

Upper Lachlan have agreed to join MERC effective from 1st July 2019, with Mayor John Stafford and General Manager John Bell to be the delegates. This gives MERC 22 members. Awaiting an approval to present to Country Mayors Association in May 2019

Coonamble Shire Council has expressed an interest in being part of the Association and after discussions with the Mayor, who is very keen, a proposal has been forwarded for the Council to consider membership in view of their renewable energy potential and the Coal Seam Gas issues

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.

Research Fellowship Update

On 8th February 2019 at the Ordinary General Meeting, Dr Juan Castilla Rho, University of Wollongong, Research Fellow Participatory Modelling, briefed delegates on the participatory modelling research proposal with the three options, outputs and outcomes, as follows:

Option One – Research Agreement (4 year project) MERC & UoW – $35K pa each (cash and in kind), 1 Pilot case study (to be selected – mining, CSG, water resource, wind, etc.) and 1 PhD student, supervised by Dr Castilla and Prof Perez;


Option Two – OEH Environmental Research Grant (4 year project) MERC & UoW cost of $50K – $300K, to be split 50:50 depending on the grant quantum, with the involvement of 2 PhD students for 2 case studies, same supervision;


Option Three – ARC Linkage Project (2-5 year project) MERC & UoW – $50K – $300K (35/50% success rate), 3 Pilot studies, 3 PhD students, same supervision, plus Prof Moira Zellner, University of Illinois of Chicago, world leader in participatory steering of complex systems being involved in the workshops.


The outputs will be participatory modelling workshops; part of a management flight simulator; in journal papers; presentation at International conferences; published in news and media outlets. The outcomes are expected to be the piloting of participatory modelling social licence pathways; facilitate the assessment of mining and energy proposals; project has the potential to be included in guidelines, best practice and ultimately planning regulation. Below is a link to download the presentation:

Delegates will need to determine if MERC is to proceed with the project or not, at the 10th May meeting in Forbes by having a discussion with your Councils, consideration of the benefits and funding options. Meanwhile, possible grant sources are being canvassed to cover the MERC  co contribution funds.

Project Working Party

At the Ordinary General meeting, delegates noted the Skills Matrix and Consultants Register that were developed by the Project Working party and circulated . Delegates also spent  considerable time on the amended Coal Seam Gas Policy, which will be typed without tracking and presented to delegates to adopt on 10th May 2019, in the new format. The project working party is Chaired by Jason Linnane, General Manager, Singleton Council and consists of planning staff from members – Ron Zwicker (Wollongong CC), David Henry (Wollondilly SC), Heather Nicholls (Cabonne SC) and Andrew Johns (Gunnedah SC). Ron in particular did a lot of the major review work and is to be congratulated for this. If your Council hasn’t responded to the Skills matrix survey there is still time, as the matrix can be regularly updated as Cessnock has done recently, since the list was distributed.

Potential Speakers for next meeting in Forbes 10th May 2019

The Executive Officer has been chasing the following speakers for future meetings:

  • David Kitto, Executive Director of DPE Resource Assessments & Business systems team has been invited to attend in lieu his inability to attend the wind farming workshop and meeting next day at Crookwell in November last year.
  • Dr Alex King, Executive Director, Resources Policy, Planning & Programs, Division of Resources & Geoscience, DPE has been invited to address delegates on engagement with non-industry stakeholders, the state and future of mining in NSW and his Division engaging more with local government going forward. Which is all very timely given our discussons with University of Wollongong on a better model of consulting (He has been contacted regarding being involved in the participatory modelling exercise perhaps DPE may be interested in being apart of this project?).
  • Nathan Laird, Director Legislative Updates, Policy and Strategy, DPE has been invited to address delegates on the development of Community Participation Plans (CPP’s). You can see further details in related matters of interest from his email to all councils in NSW on CPP’s.
  • Tony Corbett, Trade & Business Development Manager, Port of Newcastle has been suggested by life member Glenn Wilcox who suggested he be invited to provide an update on what is happening with coal & containers.

Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

 “Community Participation Plans” Nathan Laird, Director Legislative Updates, DPE on 26th February 2019, emailed this: The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 has been updated to make community participation central to the planning system. Supporting this objective, is a new measure requiring all public authorities that have planning functions under the EP&A Act, including councils, to develop a community participation plan (CPP). CPPs must be finalised and published on the ePlanning portal by 1 December 2019. The link to the FAQs is here.  If you have any further questions about the Departments CPP, the CPP implementation program and questions in the FAQ document please contact the Legislative Updates team at

 “Latest climate policy fails to provide clean energy investment confidence” Clean Energy Council sent this out on Monday 25 February 2019:

The Climate Solutions Package announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today will do little to reduce emissions across the energy sector or provide the policy certainty needed to continue momentum in clean energy investment, the Clean Energy Council said today.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said today’s announcement is no substitute for strong energy policy. “Any policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which ignores the need to transition our emissions-intensive energy sector – the largest source of emissions in the Australian economy – to clean energy, is not taking the matter seriously. It also misses a golden opportunity to incentivise further private investment, further lower energy prices and create jobs,” Mr Thornton said. “This new fund will not apply to the energy generation sector. This means that the momentum created by $20 billion of private investment in large-scale renewable energy being built behind the Renewable Energy Target is now at risk. All the incredible expertise and capacity the industry has built could be lost without policy certainty beyond 2020.

“As the Clean Energy Council outlined recently in a series of policy recommendations for the upcoming Federal Election, Australia is in desperate need of a long-term energy policy that includes a target for reducing emissions across the electricity sector. “Along with many other organisations such as the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group, the Clean Energy Council backed the government’s efforts to deliver cheap, clean and reliable energy through its National Energy Guarantee. While climate and energy policy remain a difficult political issue, the lack of any genuine policy is unsustainable for the energy sector,” he said.  Mr Thornton said the funding for a second Bass Strait interconnector to provide a stronger link between the mainland and Tasmania’s hydro generation, pumped hydro storage and other renewable resources will help to unlock Tasmania’s enormous renewables potential and is very welcome.

“Clean Energy industry pumped about potential for hydro to unlock low cost renewables Wednesday 27th February 2019.  The clean energy industry is pumped about a clean energy future that features one of the country’s most well-established technologies, the Clean Energy Council said in relation to funding announcements this week for the Snowy 2.0 expansion and Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation project. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said “while innovation and economies of scale continued to make new clean energy technologies cheaper, hydro power’s effectiveness and long heritage makes it a perfect partner to complement wind and solar in Australia. These pumped hydro projects are tailor-made to work in concert with renewables, but the business case collapses if the government uses taxpayer funds for new coal-fired power plants. A mix of clean energy technologies can now do everything new coal can do – but cheaper, cleaner and more reliably,” Mr Thornton said.

 “Studies from our most credible organisations have shown that our power system can run on 50 per cent renewables with minimal investment in additional energy storage. The great news about the Snowy 2.0 expansion and the Battery of the Nation is that they pave the way for much higher levels of renewable energy in Australia. Both Snowy Hydro and Hydro Tasmania have made huge contributions to Australia’s energy system over many decades, and it is fantastic to see them taking on a renewed role in powering our energy future.
“It is important however that government intervention and funding of investments is managed carefully and transparently to ensure the impact on market dynamics and private investment flow” he said. “The Federal Government has pledged $1.38 billion in funding and a green light for the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro expansion this week, along with $56 million for the Marinus Link project which would provide a second cable across Bass Strait to make Tasmania’s renewable energy resources more available for the mainland. The Federal Government says it will consider underwriting the Battery of the Nation project, while Tasmania’s Hodgman Government will make $30 million available to Hydro Tasmania to refine the number of potential sites from 14 down to three.

Mr Thornton said while federal funding for Marinus Link – matched by federal Labor – would help to make the Battery of the Nation project viable, questions remain about power transmission for the Snowy expansion. “At the moment we have a very promising project which will need substantial new investment in poles and wires to make its electricity available to the grid when it is most needed. It is still not clear who will pay for that,” he said.
“The clean energy industry believes it is time for state government like New South Wales and Victoria to step up and help with connecting Snowy 2.0, to ensure project can proceed.”

 “Real policy support needed to give a lift to huge potential of clean hydrogen” The Clean Energy Council also sent this media release out on 1st March 2019.

While the Federal Government’s support for hydrogen to date is welcome, tangible policy initiatives and an extension to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), are needed to unlock a huge potential export earner for our economy, the Clean Energy Council said today. Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton emphasised the potential for clean hydrogen as a way to effectively export the renewable energy produced by Australia’s world-class sun, wind, water and bioenergy resources, when he said:

“Clean hydrogen is an exciting opportunity that uses technology developed by scientists at CSIRO to make the gas export-ready. There is a large international market for hydrogen emerging, particularly in Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan, which is committed to working towards a hydrogen-based economy,” Mr Thornton said.
“The government’s interest and support for this industry of the future is obviously welcome, but it needs to be accompanied by serious policy and strategy development to realise a massive new opportunity. “The Clean Energy Council believes clean hydrogen should be developed as part of a national clean energy export strategy, which is one of the recommendations of our 2019 Federal Election recommendations.

The strategy should also assess measures such as undersea cables to supply electricity to international markets in south-east Asia. “ARENA has played an incredibly important role in helping to develop early-stage clean energy technology. While the agency is expected to spend almost all of its available funding in the next 12 months and wind up in 2022, its job is only half done. “If the Federal Government is serious about developing Australia’s hydrogen potential, it also needs to extend the funding of ARENA to allow it to leverage expertise that will help to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen in Australia and develop a promising new export earner for the future “ he said. Refer media releases.

 “Local Narrabri gas to underpin new manufacturing jobs in northwest NSW “ Santos media release 27th February 2019.  Santos and Perdaman have today announced a non-binding agreement for the supply of 14.5PJ of natural gas per annum over 20 years, subject to a final investment decision for the Narrabri Gas Project. The gas would be supplied to a proposed new ammonium nitrate plant near Narrabri to produce fertiliser for agribusiness, a key sector of the NSW economy. The plant would be developed in parallel with the Narrabri Gas Project to use appraisal and early development gas.

Hybrid power, a combination of gas-fired power generation integrated with renewable power generation will also be assessed to provide electricity to both the Narrabri Gas Project and the ammonium nitrate plant. The plant is expected to support 700 jobs during construction and another 100 direct and 100 indirect ongoing jobs during operations. This is in addition to the hundreds of jobs that will be supported by the Narrabri Gas Project during both construction and operations. These two projects will be a boost for small businesses and the communities in and around Narrabri.

Santos Managing Director and CEO Kevin Gallagher said Santos has committed to develop the Narrabri Gas Project solely for the east coast domestic gas market. “Narrabri gas will be very competitively-priced gas. Santos will bring to Narrabri our experience in Queensland where we have reduced connected well costs by a massive 84 per cent since 2015. Keeping the cost of supply down is a very good way to keep gas prices down,” Mr Gallagher said. “The Narrabri Gas Project could produce enough gas to supply up to half NSW’s needs. “It’s also very important to us that the environment and water resources are protected, and NSW has very strong environmental regulation to ensure Narrabri can be developed safely and sustainability The Narrabri Gas Project is currently being assessed by the NSW Department of Planning ahead of a decision by the Independent Planning Commission”.

“We want the process to be comprehensive and robust, so the community can be confident in the outcome. There is no place for politics in the independent planning process,” Mr Gallagher said. “Manufacturing customers like Perdaman recognise the importance of locating new plants close to new natural gas supply sources and are hopeful the Narrabri Gas Project will proceed to a final investment decision as soon as possible”.

Energy Saver NSW – Incentives for Small Business”, 28th February 2019

Delegates are you aware of the incentives available to small business, to reduce energy use and save on power bills, you may wish to put this on your websites and make the local business communities or Chamber of Commerce aware of them if they are not already. For more information please go to:


Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) 0268492000

or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,