MERC Newsletter – February 2020


Delegates, here is the February MERC Newsletter,(albeit a bit later than normal to capture some of the decisions from the meetings which have been held early in March which are relevant), for your information, enjoy its contents!

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

The Guidelines for VPA’s and a VPA framework agreement (including scope and calculation methodologies) has now been agreed to by NSWMC & the MERC VPA Working Party. The foreword has now been signed by MERC and NSWMC Executive Officers and is with the DPIE (Executive Director, Mike Young) to circulate after discussions with delegates at the Ordinary meeting on 5th March 2020 to provide some comment. The aim is to have it endorsed by DPIE (in a way similar to the Blueprint for Renewable Energy that Northern JO’s developed and was circulated by DPIE) and to be sent to members and all LGA’s in NSW. More details in the minutes when distributed.


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

In our pursuit of the R4R being changed to better suit mining affected Councils, the MERC working party has been involved in the early discourse. The working party was not required for another meeting as initially indicated, however this may change in due course. Suzanne Gillham from the Resources NSW team has been in contact with the Executive Officer about their progress with the review and will convene a further meeting, if required in 2020.

Resources NSW have chosen MERC to be the primary consultation entity for Local Government on this and the working party has already been involved in several meetings to develop the proposed changes to the Resources for Regions Program. Details on progress with the proposed reforms are up on the DPIE website and it is anticpated that they will not require a panel appointment from MERC on any Regional Independent Assessment Panel.

MERC has now resolved that the Association write to Suzanne and the Deputy Premier for them to provide details on the Resources for Regions latest format, timelines, how they arivved at the list of mining affected/impacted LGA’s etc., and invited to attend our next meeting in Blayney 8th May 2020 to elaborate. Several things are clear – there will be no BCR > 1, funds are to come from consoldiated revenue, eligible LGA’s will be pre determined and listed as per the location quotient process with their status reviewed annually, no independent panel to rubberstamp the list, contributions will be negilbe if at all, etc. More later…..


Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

The Executive Officer has asked the Senior Policy Officer (Ben Lathwell) from the Minister for Planning & Public Spaces (Hon Rob Stokes) office on the intention of the Minister to continue with the RAF. Deleagtes raised this with Mike Young on 5th March and will write to confirm its status with the new DPIE Secretary, Jim  Betts.


Next Meetings of Association for 2020

The locations/dates for meetings in 2020 will at Blayney 7/8th May 2019; Orange on 13/14th August and Sydney in November (date TBA).This fits in with Country Mayors Association (6/3/20, 29/5/20, 7/8/20 & 6/11/20), and we will try to juggle it when parliament isnt sitting and MP’s can attend the regions and the member Council meeting cycles.

For the Blayney meeting, the General Manager, Rebecca Ryan, is organising a tour on the afternoon of 7th May, after the Executive Committee meeting, for early arrivals to a proposed gold mining site (Regis Resources) and other renewable energy attractions.  We will send out details of motels, B&Bs, Caravan Parks in Blayney, Millthorpe and Carcoar in due course. Networking dinner is being organised for the 7th May possibly to a rustic Italian Restaurant in Carcoar, so numbers will be needed for the complimentary bus trip.

The Executive Officer has booked into the Blayney Central Motel 02 63683355 for your information and informed the operator that early arrivals like the Executive Committee may do the same. For those flying in, best airport is Orange.


Membership Campaign

The Association has adopted a Marketing Policy to ensure membership is increased by targeting more renewable energy development affected LGA’s in NSW to formalise and strengthen the membership campaign.

At the Ordinary meeting in Sydney on 5th, it was agreed that MERC authorise the Executive Officer to develop and implement a marketing campaign in consultation with the Chair and relevant MERC membership staff to include pamphlets, notepads with “We are your voice – become a member” or suchlike on them for handouts, a banner indicating locality of members throughout NSW, a video to play on a laptop to link back to the webpage, set up a membership page on the website, etc to the value of $5000 plus take a stand at the LGNSW Conference in November 22-24, at Cessnock.

If any delegates have any colleagues in Local Government that may be interested in being part of our voice, please contact the Executive Officer. Several Councils have expressed interest in joining and are being pursued by the Executive Officer.

Word of mouth is a very powerful tool in the attraction of members as is finding champions in the LGA’s with interest in the resources and energy sector.


Speakers for next meetings of MERC

MERC will be continually pursuing 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;
  • Hon Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture & Western NSW, National Party;
  • David Shoebridge MLC (Energy) & Abigail Boyd MLC (Mining), from The Greens;
  • Other relevant Opposition party members and government senior officers will also be pursued for meetings as required depending on locality of the meetings;
  • Relevant Senior Departmental Executives;
  • CEO’s, Clean Energy Council and Clean Energy Finance Corporation, ARENA, etc.

Meanwhile, speakers on 5th March 2020 were Andrew Bray, Australian Wind Alliance, (he addressed delegates at the wind workshop, November 2018 at Crookwell) on their Annual Conference held in Ballarat last year where he spoke on what other states and LGA’s are doing with renewable energy developments, not just wind, the benefits to the community and how MERC as an Association and members can lead this to assist with membership growth, guide the community, etc. His topic was Building Stronger Communities through renewable energy projects and slides will be distributed with the minutes of the meeting.

Peter Dupen, PhD aspirant provided a short update on the progress with the project and discussed with delegates potential projects to fit the Participatory Modelling engagement program. This will assist with the development of actions for our Strategic Plan 2020 – 2023. 

Mike Young, Executive Director, Energy & Resource Assessments, DPIE also attended our meeting in Sydney and provided delegates with an update on DPIE, IPC, VPA, RAF, VLAMP, EIA, Corben Report, new organisation structure of DPIE, etc. Cr Hasler did very well with his probing questions for the benefit of delegates. Notes will be in the minutes.


Life Membership Updates – Col Mitchell (ex Wollondilly Shire Council)

Life membership badge, plaque and certificate was presented to ex Chair of the Association (former Mayor and Councillor from Wollondilly Shire Council), Col Mitchell, on Thursday the 5th March by Chair Peter Shinton assisted by Cr Michael Banasik, Executive Committee member and a delegate from Wollondilly Shire Council. Col recalled the days when the Association started the campaign to get the government to review the Resources for Regions Program and undertaking the first Strategic Plan for MERC  being invited to attend many mining related high level events.


Research Fellowship Update

PhD student (Peter Dupen) has managed to get the DPIE to contribute $20k into the project and has $10,000 from the NSW Minerals Councils, MERC has committed $40k over two years. With a $70k program albeit not as much as we would have liked, it still enables the UTS to seek government funding. Peter is actively canvassing other entities to be involved in the project as sponsors and continues to seek other grant options. At the meeting on 5th March some good projects were discussed for the Executive Officer and Peter to pursue.

He and supervisors have been concentrating on 3 main tasks – progressing the design of the engagement process and evaluation framework; seeking agency support for the project and further funding for the project.

In recent discussions with the PhD student (Peter Dupen), arrangements are being made to undertake the following as soon as possible:-

  • develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the UTS which will outline details on insurances, performance measures, exit strategies, roles, finances, disputes, etc., once all sponsors, funds and details are finalised;
  • prepare sponsorship contracts;
  • determine and prepare a project plan with budget estimates, timelines, dependencies and other key aspects;
  • discuss when funds are to be made available (possibly due to be commenced August/September 2020).


Strategic Plan 2020 – 2023 Review

A Sub Committee consisting of Clr Michael Banasik (Executive Committee – Wollondilly Shire Council), Cr Jo McRae (Orange City Council) and Glenn Wilcox General Manager, Warren Shire Council & Life Member) will work with the Executive Officer to present a draft document updating the current plan to the August meeting of MERC.


Two year terms for Executive Committee

MERC is to consider the Executive being elected for two year terms. MERC Executive Committee curently comprises Chair, two Deputy Chairs and three other delegates with all to come from separate council areas and they are elected annually. The wording of Clause 7.1 needs clarifcation and rewording to ensure it is clear that of the 6 persons on the Executive there can only be one for each separate LGA. The following change to this for clarity is being proposed:

“The Executive of the Association shall all come from different member council areas and comprise a Chairperson, two Deputy Chairpersons and three other member delegates”

Recent changes to the Local Government Act have resulted in two year terms for the election of Mayor and optional one or two years for Deputy Mayor, which has highlighted the need for the annual terms of the Executive Committee, either all or in part, be listed for discussion by delegates. Accordingly the issues have been discussed at Executive Committee level on 4th March 2020 and delegates at the Ordinary meeting  and any changes to the constitution will be considered in a future Special General Meeting before the next meeting in Blayney on 8th May 2020.


Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

“Mine lobby backs solar” Industrial Careers, 21st February 2020, article:

The major mining lobby has backed a giant solar farm in the NT. Minerals Council NT executive director, Drew Wagner, says the proposed $20 billion solar farm in the Barkly region could create “massive opportunities” for the mining sector.

Sun Cable has announced plans to build the world’s largest solar farm, covering 15,000 hectares with 22 million solar panels, and a powerline all the way to Singapore. NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner says his Government is “aggressively pursuing” the project. “Last year we gave it major-project status. This is nation-leading and world-leading and will see 300 permanent jobs in Tennant Creek,” he told a business breakfast in Darwin this week.

“We are aggressively pursuing renewables. It is how you tackle climate change and create jobs.” “The Territory has the best sun in the world.”

The majority of solar panels are made in Asia, but the Minerals Council says with such a giant order, they should instead be made in Australia using raw materials from the NT.

Sun Cable’s CEO, David Griffin, says the solar panel supply chain for the project is not yet decided. “There are currently several competitive sources of solar panels from Asia [and], given the scale of the project, it is possible the panels will be derived from more than one source,” he said. “As Drew Wagner noted, there is currently no material volume of solar panel manufacturing in Australia.

“The technology associated with cell and panel manufacturing is constantly improving, which also impacts where the ideal manufacturing location is.” Mr Griffin said his company has selected the Maverick system as Sun Cable’s preferred technology for its project in the Barkly, which is developed by an Australian company called 5B Pty Ltd. “Sun Cable is developing the manufacturing plan for the Big Field Mavericks. Darwin is the obvious location to undertake this work,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, construction of Sun Cable’s solar farm in the Barkly should commence at the end of 2023. Refer to for details.


”Rio goes for cheap new power Industrial Careers, 21st February 2020 article:

Rio Tinto says a large solar farm will feed its new iron ore mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The company has plans to build a 34-megawatt plant in Newman accompany a lithium-ion battery system that will help power the company’s entire Pilbara network.

Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said the $144-million project makes financial sense. “Apart from reducing emissions, obviously these projects have a financial return,” he said. “So it is possible to reduce emissions at the same time as ensuring we remain an efficient operation as well.”

Rio Tinto also announced plans for future emissions reduction targets. “This will really set out our road map for substantial decarbonisation in the business,” Mr Salisbury said.

“This [Pilbara plant] is really an important first step towards that. “We are investigating additional renewable energy options in the Pilbara, as well as other opportunities to reduce emissions across our entire global portfolio, building on the 43 per cent reduction in absolute greenhouse gas emissions since 2008.” The energy system should be able to reduce the company’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 90,000 tonnes — the equivalent, according to Mr Salisbury, of “taking about 28,000 cars off the road”. Rio Tinto’s total Pilbara emissions in 2018 were 3.2 million tonnes. Refer for further details


“Capacity boost called” Industrial Careers, 17th February 2020 article:

Authorities have called for ‘critical’ funding to increase the capacity of the energy transmission corridor from Victoria to New South Wales. An investment proposal is outlined in the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and TransGrid’s joint Project Assessment Conclusion Report (PACR).

The preferred option identified in the PACR is to implement the following upgrades to the existing Victoria to NSW transfer corridor by 2022-23:

  • Install a second 500/330 kilovolt (kV) transformer at South Morang Terminal Station
  • Re-tension the 330 kV South Morang – Dederang transmission lines, as well as associated works (including replacement of series capacitors which will be replaced with higher rated capacitors to align with the new line ratings), to allow operation at thermal rating
  • Install modular power flow controllers on the 330 kV Upper Tumut – Canberra and Upper Tumut – Yass lines to balance power flows and increase transfer capability

The authorities say this would boost the Victoria to NSW interconnector export capability by approximately 170 megawatts (MW) during peak demand conditions in NSW and yields significant net market benefits, primarily through more efficient sharing of generation resources between the states.

“This option has an estimated cost of $87 million (in present value terms) and is expected to deliver a net economic benefit of approximately $268 million,” AEMO said.

AEMO Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Audrey Zibelman said this would provide a strong return on investment. “Initial estimates show that for every dollar invested in this urgent short-term project, we’ll see approximately three times that in net market benefits, and these market benefits will start to accrue almost immediately following the proposed commissioning of the project in 2022-23,” she said.

“These benefits are largely the result of cost savings achieved through more efficient dispatch of generation in Victoria and NSW, and reduced capital costs associated with new generation build in NSW. This helps to protect consumers from paying more than necessary for their electricity.” Refer for further details.


Renewable Energy Blueprint for Councils” Office Local Government, Community Engagement officer Peter Evans forwards this email content recently of interest to delegates if the council where you are hasn’t provided this information:

“The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has worked with Namoi Unlimited, the Mid North Coast, New England and Northern Rivers Joint Organisations of Councils to develop the Northern NSW Renewable Energy Blueprint for Councils.

The resource, available at is designed to assist councils to initiate and implement renewable energy projects in their LGAs. It provides information about how a council might undertake a new renewable energy project, provides access to templates and other resources, and shares case studies of existing projects that serve as examples of how to overcome unique challenges or take advantage of benefits.

For more information the Blueprint, Councils can contact or . To access the resources referenced in the document, Councils are encouraged to contact


Two states try hydrogen to cut carbon footprint” Northern Daily Leader, 22 February 2020, article: Cutting Australia’s carbon footprint by introducing renewable hydrogen to the gas supply network will be trialled in Victoria and South Australia. The federal government has provided $1.28m to Australian Gas Networks to explore the feasibility of blending hydrogen with natural gas through the Australian Hydrogen Centre.

The centre will study a proposal to inject up to 10% hydrogen into the gas distribution network of selected regional towns in SA and Victoria. It will then look at the possibility of widening the trial across the two states as a pathway to 100 per cent hydrogen networks. Ultimately the aim is to produce enough hydrogen to feed into gas supply of households to deliver more reliable, affordable and cleaner energy.  Refer


“Coal mine lakes scheme” Industrial Careers, 20th February 2020, article:

The Victorian Government is looking at turning old coal mines into lakes. Three mines scheduled for closure could be filled with water drawn from the Latrobe River system, according to a new report.  Victoria’s mine rehabilitation commissioner, Professor Rae Mackay, says filling the mines with water would stabilise them.

“It’s very much about safety, stability. And it’s also a little bit about sustainability as well,” Professor Mackay said. “We want to try and find a way that doesn’t actually cost us a lot of money or cost us a lot of effort to actually maintain these pits into the future.”

A recent government report found Hazelwood mine (which closed in 2017) would need 725 gigalitres to fill it, which would take 15 to 20 years without interruption. The Yallourn mine (scheduled to close in 2032) would need 725GL and 20 to 25 years to fill, while the Loy Yang mine (slated closure in 2048) holds 1,420GL and would take 25 to 30 years to fill.

The analysis found other water sources were not “of suitable quality, volume or comparative cost” to be feasible, but suggested this may change in the future. Environment Victoria says filling the mines may have a negative impact on the river system. The government’s own figures show flows into the Latrobe are down by 25 per cent since 1997, from 800GL to 600GL a year. Environment Victoria community organiser Laura Melville said there may be water availability issues in the future.

“I think we’ve already seen the impacts of not having that much water in the Latrobe River system on the Gippsland Lakes and increased salinity in the lakes,” she said. “And if we take even more water out of that system, who knows what the impacts will continue to be on that ecosystem?” With some parts of the plan running well into the 2070s, experts say any projects would need to be constantly monitored and evaluated as circumstances evolve.

The Government’s final plan for the mines should be released mid-year.


Pro nuclear Pitt gets Ministership”10th February 2020, article:

The appointment of a new resources minister has raised questions about Australia’s nuclear industries. Former minister Matt Canavan resigned the Resources Ministry last week, just days after announcing an area near Kimba in regional South Australia will become home to Australia’s radioactive waste. 

Senator Canavan’s replacement is Keith Pitt, a colleague from the Queensland Nationals and a big fan of nuclear power. Mr Pitt has plugged domestic reactors and proposed reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in Australia, and now that he has the portfolio, many are wondering what will happen with the new waste dump.

The current plan is to keep low-level radioactive waste, mostly from hospitals, at a single underground site rather than have it spread at dozens of smaller sites across the country. It is also expected that intermediate-level waste, which must be isolated for up to 10,000 years, will be stored above ground until it is ready for underground disposal at a separate site in the future. It is this part of the plan that is most concerning for opponents, and it has been speculated that expanding the project to handle higher grades of nuclear waste will be on Mr Pitt’s agenda.

“This unnecessary double handling of long-lived radioactive waste is not consistent with international best practice,” Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear-free campaigner Dave Sweeney says. “There is no compelling radiological or public health rationale for advancing this deeply irresponsible plan, especially based on the current sub-optimal process. “There is a real risk this waste will become stranded in a place with far fewer institutional assets to manage it than those sites where it is currently housed.”

Meanwhile, the renewable energy sector is unlikely to be celebrating Mr Pitt’s new portfolio. He was among the MPs who supported the Abbott government’s efforts to abolish the federal government’s renewable energy initiatives. Mr Pitt even went so far as to resign as an assistant minister in 2018 following Scott Morrison’s elevation to the Prime Ministership, saying that Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement was a major reason for leaving.

He was also among a group of National MPs that demanded financial support for a new coal generator ahead of the 2019 federal election.

“If it is a climate emergency, then everything should be on the table—everything—and we shouldn’t just be ruling things in and out because we like them or we don’t like them. That means that you should consider nuclear energy. That means that you should consider HELE [high-energy, low-emission] coal. If a HELE coal power station can reduce emissions by 40 per cent, why wouldn’t you use it?” Mr Pitt said in Parliament last year.


Disclaimer The comments and details in the articles in this newsletter do not reflect the views, policies or position of the Association or its member Councils and are sourced and reproduced from public media outlets by the Executive Officer to provide information for members that they may not already be exposed to in their Local Government areas



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

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