MERC Newsletter – February 2023


Delegates, here is the February MERC Newsletter, please circulate the Newsletter to your fellow Councillors and senior staff this week, 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.  


New Executive Committee

In accordance with the MERC constitution, as a result of the recent elections MERC has a new Executive Committee:

  • Chair Cr Kevin Duffy, Orange City Council
  • Deputy Chairs, Cr Phyllis Miller, OAM Forbes Shire Council & Cr Dennis Brady, Lachlan Shire Council
  • Executive Committee, Crs Scott Ferguson, Blayney Shire Council, Cr Liz McGlynn, Bland Shire Council & Cr Denis Todd, Warrumbungle Shire Council.



1          Next Meetings of Association – The next Ordinary meeting will be on 26th May 2023 in Dubbo, the August Ordinary meeting location is yet to be determined, whilst  the  AGM meeting will be held in November at a location to be determined. The Executive Committee will have a meeting (by teleconference) beforehand on dates to be determined by the Chair in consultation with the Executive Committee.

2          Resources & Energy Mini Conference The Mini Conference date slots have been booked for the week 24-26th May 2023 at Dubbo Regional Theatre & Convention Centre. The conference will be run in partnership with Orana RDA/Inland NSW Growth Alliance from 23-25th, with the MERC Ordinary meeting being held on Friday 26th May in the same venue.

3          COVID-19 Virus Impact on MERC – In 2023 MERC will be resuming its’ meeting cycle activities in the normal manner. What this means for MERC delegates is that 2023 will have quarterly meetings as “face to face” meetings with use of zoom in exceptional circumstances. Executive Committee meetings will be by zoom means as determined. A lot of value is gleaned from being at a meeting in person and this can be lost when delegates attend by zoom. The focus will always be on giving delegates an opportunity to attend meetings. However, delegates must be present to vote for the AGM in view of the voting system in the constitution.

4          Speakers for Next Meeting in Dubbo – The invitees to be approached to speak at Dubbo will be Ministers, Opposition, Mining & Energy Industry Leaders and speakers from areas of Innovation in the space plus sponsors. It was good to have Courtney Houssos, Shadow Minister for Resources and Shadow Minister for Better Regulation address delegates in Sydney on 22nd February where she outlined Labor’s platform if elected on 25th March 2023, as follows:.

  • New to portfolio of Resources and apologised for not being up to speed with all the issues, however as Shadow Minister was willing to learn from entities like MERC on issues associated with Critical Minerals, Resources for Regions, Royalties for Rejuvenation, VPA’s etc., in an endeavour to address them.
  • Concerned about what happens after mines close in communities – that’s where opportunities need to be explored for manufacturing eg building rail trains in NSW in those areas to utilise the available labour from mine closures.
  • Labor has developed its own Coal Reservations Policy in opposition to the Coalition’s Coal Directions Policy.
  • Labor supports the Coalition’s Energy Plan but are concerned about the slow roll out of the REZ’s and the lack of engagement with communities and affected landholders to date which they will look at improving.
  • There doesn’t appear to be any provision in the Coalition’s Energy Plan for manufacturing to generate their own energy and jobs from the Energy Plan initiatives roll out.
  • There appears to be a lack of transparency in how the miners are addressing their emission issues out there in the communities and government will be keen to work with them to address the issues.
  • If elected, Labor will introduce a State-owned Energy Commission to ensure a consistent supply of energy for everyone in the State – it will be modelled on the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Corporation.
  • Libs/Nationals have left the incoming government in a dire position with the lights and power not guaranteed to be left on and cost of energy -, Labor’s focus will be to keep the lights on at a lower cost to stakeholders..
  • Labor’s focus will be on hydro, community batteries, solar, wind but no nuclear at this stage.
  • They will also be looking at pumped hydro and have had talks with Yancoal already, who are exploring the opportunities with it.
  • Happy to attend future meetings and build up a relationship with MERC.

5          Inland NSW Growth Alliance (formerly Orana Opportunity Network (O2N) – MERC is trialling as a Bronze Member of INGA for 12 months. Their Newsletters are available on their website on  A partnership has been forged with Orana RDA to joint hosting of a Resources Energy & Innovation Forum with MERC on 24th – 26th  May 2023 in Dubbo;

6          CRC Transformation in Mining Economies (CRCTiME) – MERC is a partner with CRC TiME on a no cost but consultative basis. They provide updates on progress with an opportunity for members to join webinars, workshops, surveys etc. Latest update is below.

7          Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) – Consultants have conducted a survey of 21 stakeholders including the Executive Officer of MERC on how the government can improve its “social licence” with roll out of the REZ’s. Details are outlined below.



(i)      Renewable Energy Alliance (RE-Alliance)

Andrew Bray, National Director Re-Alliance writes: “The biggest barrier to our shift to renewable energy is the lack of transmission network capacity. Without it, we can’t transport the clean power generated in Renewable Energy Zones to where it’s needed. 

RE-Alliance welcomes the series of announcements last week from the Victorian Government and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to advance development of transmission infrastructure while keeping a focus on affected communities.

Firstly, the Victorian Government declared the acceleration of the Victoria-New South Wales Interconnector West (VNI West) using the best parts of VicGrid’s Victorian Transmission Investment Framework, a framework for how transmission infrastructure is planned and developed.

Secondly, AEMO has prioritised a different route for VNI West based on community feedback. It is promising to see social and environmental factors considered in developing alternative routes – something that all large scale transmission projects should do. To determine the route, open engagement with the community, collaboration with Traditional Owners and consultation with local government will take place. Support for the new route from regional stakeholders like the Wimmera Development Association shows that AEMO’s engagement is improving. 

Thirdly, the Victorian Government announced a new payment scheme for Victorian farmers and landholders hosting transmission lines on their properties – bringing the state in line with NSW. Landowners will receive a $200,000 per kilometre payment, paid over 25 years, for all new large-scale transmission lines. This will be in addition to easement payments made under existing arrangements that take into account the value of the land and the way it is used. 

RE-Alliance has long advocated for increased landholder payments. Everyone should benefit from the renewable energy transformation, especially the communities that host the infrastructure for it. Proper payment for landholders is crucial – but it’s not a silver bullet. Transmission companies need to listen to and understand the needs of the local community and the environment.

The series of announcements last week indicate that the Victorian Government and AEMO have listened: they’ve heard the crucial need to consider and include communities in our clean energy transition and they understand that we get one chance to make this shift and to do it right. 

Right now, Victorian communities can be a part of the engagement process for VNI West, which is currently open for feedback. This is also a perfect moment for Victorians to be planning for how to best leverage the energy transition to build thriving communities”.

(ii)        Renewable Energy Zones (REZ’s)

A REZ is a hub of renewable projects across a region that forma a modern-day power station, producing a large amount of energy for the State. The State Government has set them up in the New England, Southern NSW, Hunter/Central Coast Regions and in the Riverina and Southern Riverina.

In following up Mike after the last two meeting presentations by him, EnergyCo, as part of their Stakeholder Engagement Strategy have set up a Listening Program where the MERC Executive Officer was one of 21 entities to be interviewed on a one on one basis (to ensure MERC is involved in the roll out of REZ’s as a stakeholder) to assist in shaping how EnergyCo leads the delivery of the Renewable Energy Zones and Priority Transmission Projects in NSW.  

EnergyCo has engaged the services of RPS Group to conduct a series of one-on-one stakeholder interviews. Undertaking the consultation through an independent company ensures all feedback will remain anonymous as well as giving EnergyCo deeper research insights.

When the interviews are complete, RPS Group will provide un-identified interview transcripts for analysis. The key themes and insights from this data will help shape the way EnergyCo work in the future and they plan to release a public report summarising the insights from both our community survey and stakeholder inputs.  The results of the interviews are yet to be received.

Meanwhile, the following is an update on the progress of the roll out of the REZ provided by Mike Young at the recent MERC meeting in Sydney:

  • Energy Corporation of NSW is a statutory authority re-established in line with legislative functions under the Energy and Utilities Administration Act 1987 and Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 has been set up to “join the dots” with the design, delivery, and coordination of Renewable Energy Zones (REZ’s) and other electricity infrastructure in a way that benefits consumers, investors and regional communities.
  • Transmission development is becoming increasingly controversial in local communities, with communities already raising concerns with compensation, consultation, land use conflict, access fees and cost recovery.
  • The loss of social licence has the potential to delay the rollout of transmission infrastructure which would jeopardise energy security, slow NSW’s transition to net zero emissions and increase electricity costs for consumers. To avoid this the government will need to actively build community support for the transition rollout.
  • Have engaged consultants to look at ways to improve the consultation process with roll out of the 5 REZ’s in NSW, results will be out shortly.
  • Seeking funding to develop a Community Benefit Funding Scheme Model at the moment where EnergyCo to get the right model for the roll out of these in the Rez’ work.
  • Has been out and about talking to affected persons in Dunedoo and Coolah and have had bilateral and collective meetings with the Councils in the REZ’s, to get feedback and have set up a Community Survey online.
  • Coalition of Renewable Energy Mayors has been set up (incudes Mayors from Mid-Western Regional, Warrumbungle, Dubbo Regional [MERC members], and the New England Councils – Tamworth, Armidale, Inverell, Glen Innes, Walcha or Uralla) who have met with Mike and Minister Kean after Country Mayors meeting 21st February 2023 to discuss their REZ concerns.
  • Seeking confirmation of grant for $50m to fund the Central West Orana REZ. For cheques to be sent out in July/August for access fees to landholders and Councils.
  • The REZ’s are legislated, so the incoming government will have to continue the process and Mike has had discussions with Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Jihad Dib, who is generally supportive.
  • New England REZ next to roll out and there are many projects underway with the Hunter Transmission project for Bayswater to Eraring.
  • Regarding VPA’s for Renewable Energy developments, this has been discussed with Coalition of Renewable Energy Mayors and models are being considered based on 1.5% of CIV for VPA’s.
  • Mike said Department of Planning staff are starting to realise that VPA’s should cover other issues raised by the communities affected by these State Significant Developments, and it is something the new government will have to address as part of the Productivity Commissions’ recommendations ie by making the developers pay more and fairly to LGA’s.

(ii)        RDA Orana / ON2

RDA Orana are organising a Resources & Energy Industry Innovation Forum in May 2023 in Dubbo and discussions have been held with MERC for its mini conference having a Local Government Day as part of the Forum, site visits day before,

RDA Orana newsletters often have matters of interest for delegates which will be passed on when relevant information in them. More details will be released in mid-March when the marketing commences.

(iv)      CRC TiME – Partner Update Stages of projects (as at 24/02/23)

 CEO Guy Bloggs advises “See Research Prioritisation Plan for more about the project development progress but following is a summary of the projects at CRC TiME to date.

Thank you to all who joined us for the partner update webinar last Friday 17 February. For those who couldn’t attend or would like a refresh, watch the recording here:

Key takeaways

We’ve just hit the quarter lifespan of the CRC and have achieved 26% of milestones within this time frame, indicating that we’re on the right track. In case you missed it, we have a Strategic Plan 2021 – 2024, Research Prioritisation Plan 2021 – 2024, and Impact Framework, which breaks down our framework into eight priorities for 2021 – 2024 and the completion of our foundational projects.

Our First Nations Inclusion Strategy, which is extremely important to us, is guiding changes to the way we work. With Caroline Williams, Engagement Manager (First Nations) now onboard, we are ready to share more broadly. As always, we are committed to project co-design to scope projects that are useful to our partners.

You asked, we listened – the main feedback received in the session was your desire for a simple document listing our projects in the pipeline, key contacts and key dates. We agree and hope the attached summary meets your needs – let us know your thoughts. Also, it’s the last chance for you to do our communications survey.

Quarterly partner updates

Keep an eye out for an invitation to our next partner update. These will be held quarterly this year to keep you in the loop on upcoming project movements. We will ensure they’re a good use of your time. Keep an eye out for invitations to these and other upcoming engagement opportunities. If you’re interested, please contact us.

Project Ideas

  • National spatial datasets for sustainable resources development | Idea testing | Dr Guy Boggs
  • Post-mine transitions in a decarbonisation context | Idea testing | Jillian D’Urso
  • A toolkit of cross-cultural communications on closure | Idea testing |Jillian D’Urso
  • A dossier on common transition scenarios from mining to next state/use and requirements to achieve | Idea testing | Jillian D’Urso
  • Case studies of successful closure transitions to identify who, what, where, how and why | Idea testing | Jillian D’Urso
  • A longitudinal review of where a post-mine state was thought to be success and where it is now | Idea testing | Jillian D’Urso

Concept Development

  • Addressing knowledge gaps for post-mining land use | Engagement underway |Dr Tom Measham
  • Education pathways for First Nations in mine closure | Engagement underway) | Zane Hughes
  • Enablers for First Nations inclusion in post-mine transitions | Engagement underway | Jillian D’Urso
  • Facilitating industry and government engagement with communities in mine closure planning and implementation |Professor Alex Gardner
  • Alternate uses of abandoned mine sites for new energy applications | Early engagement | Professor Syed Islam
  • CRC TiME Knowledge Discovery, Translation and Engagement Platform | Early engagement | Dr Mark Cypher
  • Incorporating Intangibles for Sustainable Mine Closure | Early engagement | Dr Gopi Chattopadhyay
  • LoM Planning Considering Optimum Waste Rock Dumping Strategies | Early engagement | Professor Erkan Topal
  • Evaluation and support for closure decisions that incorporates the unique value proposition to more accurately assess both tangible and intangible costs and risks | Early engagement |A/Professor Bryan Maybee
  • Sustainable mining waste management framework | Early engagement | Dr Baotang Shen
  • Building an Australian-wide digital library of spectral and structural signatures of framework and invasive vegetation species for detection in mine rehabilitation and closure | Early engagement | Professor Peter Erskine
  • Securitisation of intangible uncertainty for mine closure | Early engagement | A/Professor Eric Lilford
  • Stakeholder views of success measures | Early engagement | Jillian D’Urso

Project Proposal/Plan

  • Reviewing appropriateness of traditional NPV measures for closure provisioning: A survey of the literature | A/Professor Bryan Maybee
  • Developing a strategy for education and capacity building | EOI closed | Dr Tom Measham

Project Execution (final contracting)

  • Collaborative planning for post-mining development in the Latrobe Valley – Stage 1 | Dr Jess Reeves
  • Identifying future economic development pathways for mining regions and increasing transition capacity | Dr Lavinia Poruschi
  • Opportunities for Growth in Australia’s Mine Closure Solutions Industry | Dominic Banfield
  • Mine Pit Lake Assessment and Management: A National Initiative to Support Mine Closure and Regional Opportunities | Dr Kathryn Linge
  • A systematic Approach to Regional Cumulative Effects Assessment (RCEA) To Support Transitions in Mining Economies – Stage 1 | Dr Renee Young

Project Management (in delivery)

  • Future Proofing a small community from the impacts of the mine lifecycle | Professor Fiona Haslam-McKenzie
  • Natural Capital Accounting in the mining sector |Consultation to commence soon | A/Professor Bryan Maybee
  • Australian Seed Scaling Initiative | Dr Todd Erickson
  • Evidence for effectiveness of climate-adapted seed sourcing strategies in a changing climate | Dr Rebecca Jordan
  • Improved prediction, remediation and closure of AMD/NMD sites |Professor Sarah Harmer | Dr Daniel Pierce
  • Algae-based technologies for improved environmental outcomes and sustainable post mining futures | Dr Anna Kaksonen
  • Climate change induced risks for the performance of vegetation on mine rehabilitation soil covers in the Latrobe Valley | Professor Thomas Baumgartl

Completed projects.

  • 1.1 Towards a framework for cumulative regional impact assessment | READ THE REPORT
  • 1.2 Post Mining Land use | READ THE REPORT
  • 1.3 Mapping the regulation of mine closure – READ THE REPORT | WATCH THE VIDEO (PART 1) | WATCH THE VIDEO (PART 2)
  • 1.4 Understanding local readiness for closure: initiating a multi-stakeholder participatory approach – READ THE REPORT
  • 2.1 Understanding stakeholder values in post-mining economies – READ THE REPORT
  • 2.2 Exploring the issues in mine closure planning – READ THE REPORT
  • 2.3 Current tools, techniques and gaps in evaluating mine closure – READ THE REPORT
  • 2.4 Quantifying risks and opportunities from mine closure | WATCH THE WEBINAR
  • 3.1 Improved Prediction, Remediation and Closure of Acid and Neutral Metalliferous Drainage | READ THE REPORT | WATCH THE WEBINAR
  • 3.2 Transforming disparate approaches to remote sensing and monitoring to industry best practice – READ THE REPORT | WATCH THE WEBINAR
  • 3.3 Mine site water: options for extracting value from open pits – READ THE REPORT
  • 3.4 Returning ecosystems resilience
  • 3.5 Mined landform stability for regional benefit |Final report expected soon
  • 3.6 Assessing barriers to reducing environmental risks using acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD) as a case study – READ THE REPORT | WATCH THE WEBINAR
  • 3.16 Revegetating iron-ore mine waste using a novel eco-engineering pioneer plant-microbe system
  • 4.8 Evaluation of an ecosystem forecasting system for rehabilitated arid landscapes
  • 5.2 Foundations for Indigenous Inclusion | READ THE REPORT

Find all project publications and outputs here:



“NSW Government Releases Latest REZ in Illawarra Region with Offshore Wind and Solar FocusGiles Parkinson, Renew Economy, Feb 2023,  writes “The NSW state government has officially declared the fifth renewable energy zone – this time in the Illawarra region – as part of its roadmap to replace the country’s biggest coal grid with renewables and storage over the next decade. The declaration of the Illawarra REZ follows similar declaration for the Central West Orana, New England, Hunter, and Southwest REZs – all designed to foster and host at leat 12GW of new wind, solar and storage projects.

The Illawarra REZ – like the Hunter REZ – will have a large component of offshore wind, thanks to the respective port facilities that were built as a legacy of the coal and steel industries in those two regions.

So far, up to 17GW worth of projects, worth more than $40 billion, have been proposed for the region – mostly for offshore wind projects. “The Illawarra has a proud history of manufacturing and the REZ will only build on this legacy, powering existing and emerging industries such as offshore wind, green hydrogen and green steel production,” energy minister Matt Kean said in a statement.

“The Illawarra is an ideal region to host a REZ, thanks to its existing energy, port and transport infrastructure, its highly skilled workforce and strong demand from existing industries to decarbonise. This is a huge win for the Illawarra with projects registering their interest showing a potential to create more than 8,300 jobs, not including the huge employment potential of offshore wind.”

The initial call for projects for the Illawarra REZ unlocked interest in investments in wind, battery storage, pumped hydro, hydrogen and new load projects, including green steel manufacturing. Last week, Port Kembla, announced plans to turn itself into a support base for a future offshore wind industry, unveiling two concept plans for its outer harbour. The Wollongong port is already an import hub for onshore wind farm components and the port operator also wants to add hydrogen to the mix.


“NSW Considers Ban on New Embedded Networks in Suite of Rule Refroms” Rachel Williamson, Renew Economy, Feb 2023 writes “NSW is the latest state to take aim at embedded networks, with new rules to limit price-gouging and give low-income earners access to government aid. The new rules are expected to be in place by the end of the year and benefit about 150,000 people, a spokesperson for NSW treasurer and minister for energy Matt Kean told RenewEconomy.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) will set a maximum price for gas and for hot and chilled water supplied through embedded networks and review whether those prices should be below the default market offer for electricity in the National Energy Market (NEM).

The government will ask IPART to consider whether it should ban new embedded networks for water and ask the AER to only approve new ones if they are in the interests of consumers. The proposed changes will also give people on low incomes who live within an embedded network site access to NSW government rebates and bill assistance worth up to $1600 a year.

“Whether you’re living in a free-standing home, or in an apartment block, caravan park or retirement village, every family should be able to access essential services at a fair price,” Kean said. These reforms will help ensure that embedded network customers are no longer disadvantaged simply because of where they choose to live.”

Embedded networks are private energy networks which on-sell energy from retailers to households and small businesses in multiple premises like apartment blocks, retirement villages, caravan parks and shopping centres. The NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman estimates that some 95,400 households live in residences with electricity embedded networks and some 64,000 are hot water embedded network customers.

A NSW government review into the area last year found embedded networks could be unfair and create safety issues.

“NSW residents have received unreasonably high bills, particularly for hot water embedded network services. For example, one witness had received a bill for $2000 for a 9-month period, and their neighbour had received a bill for $9700 for a period of less than 18 months,” the review reported in November.

“High bills may also have a profound effect on the most vulnerable in our community, such as people with disability, who may rely on energy services to maintain their health and safety. Further, there are physical safety risks associated with high voltage connections in larger embedded networks. The Committee heard that the increased number of large embedded networks requesting access to the grid means that current safety regulations are no longer fit for purpose.

“There are currently no requirements to disclose that a property is in an embedded network before purchase… The Committee considered this an unreasonable lack of disclosure and transparency…. recommended that the NSW Government consider regulating embedded network contract provisions, including the term of the contract and conditions of termination, to ensure they are not unduly burdensome for consumers.”

Embedded networks became a lucrative business model for building developers, but high charges and unfair terms are spurring governments into regulation.

Victoria is banning new embedded networks from this year and capped prices within existing ones under the Victorian Default Offer in 2020. But reforms to protect residents aren’t all positive. Proponents of renewable energy sources for apartments, however, suggest Victoria’s ban may cut off access to electric vehicle infrastructure and solar panels.

The trouble with embedded networks began when the AER created exemptions for all embedded electricity network suppliers in 2018 from registering as an authorised retailer, because selling power was an incidental part of their business. Until then, exemptions were offered on a case-by-case basis. But come 2023, the AER’s list of exempt networks has ballooned to 3614. The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) issued draft rule changes for embedded networks in 2019, such as requiring transparent pricing and allowing customers to switch retailers easily — but they have never gone anywhere.



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

Contacts Clr Kevin Duffy (Chair) or 0418652499 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,  .