MERC Newsletter – January 2019


Delegates, here is the January 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 Joint Voluntary Planning Agreement Working Party (VPAWP)

Current position is that the DPE have confirmed that Stephen Free (Senior Counsel) will chair the Steering Committee, which will consist of MERC VPA working party (Cr Moore, Cr Hasler, Steve Loane & Executive Officer), DPE and NSW Minerals Council (Steve Galilee and Mark Jacobs). The the first meeting is to be 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

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

The last meeting for RIAP was held on 24th January 2019 where 38 projects were assessed initially for consideration with $190m value of projects, to allocate $50m against the new criteria. There were 19 projects shortlisted and 8 deemed not eligible as they did not reach the Benefits Cost Ratio of greater than 1 set by Treasury, despite the projects being otherwise worthy of funding. The panel ratified this list in accordance with the Guidelines for the Resources for Regions program as the projects met the criteria for affordability, strategic and deliverability for referral to the Premier and Cabinet to approve.


There is a new part on website where only delegates can access minutes by a “log in” which has now been set up by CIBIS and those that responded have been registered and have been informed on the process by the CIBIS representative Erin. If others are still to register let the Executive Officer know who and the email address and you will get registered by Erin.

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

The last meeting of RAF was held on 18th October 2018, Clr Hasler provided a comprehensive update to our November meetings, with a copy of his report in the business papers. With the election in March 2019, it is not likely that a further meeting will be held until after the elections as Clr Hasler has reported.

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 7th February 2019 at Club York, 99 York St up from The Grace and the Ordinary General Meeting next day on 8th February 2019 in same venue starting at 9am. Unfortunately a room big enough to accommodate 35 delegates and speakers in a U shape and top table could not be allocated at Parliament House for this meeting.

The May meeting is to be held in Forbes, then in Sydney in August and Mid Coast Council have now confirmed they will host the November meetings in Gloucester, all dates are yet to be confirmed by the Executive Committee and host Councils.

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.

The Executive Officer has approached Country Mayors Association to present to them in March, unfortunately they have invited politicians to address them and have no time on their agenda to do this. The CMA to provide an email but is overseas at the moment. The Executive Officer has sent the current proposal pro forma to delegates to review and provide input and suggestions to the Executive Officer on the content, to incise further interest. Membership discussions have also re commenced with the Mayor of Muswellbrook by members of the MERC Executive.

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

Dr Juan Castilla – Pho provided a presentation to the Executive Committee meeting and the workshop on 8th November 2018 and again in full to the delegates at the Ordinary meeting on 9th November 2018 on how the University of Wollongong can work with MERC on a PhD research fellowship using their Participatory Collaborative Consultation Simulation and Modelling approach.

Delegates were extremely impressed and can see its application in all forms of consultation with the community and have resolved that the Executive Committee pursue this concept in consultation with the University, to look at ways to fund and implement it with a view to have the PhD Fellowship in place by the September 2019 intake of PhD students.

Executive Officer has been in touch with Juan who requested the presentations from the wind farming workshop to better understand the consultation needs of delegates and their communities for the project. There are some issues to consider and Juan has indicated that he has already identified a prospective PhD student and that the project could start in March 2019 for their side, however the working party has not been launched as yet and funding options etc., considered.

Juan has been requested to provide further details on funding options and how the process may work for both sides before convening the working party. Consequently, Juan will be presenting to delegates on 8th February the changes to what he originally proposed in order to improve funding chances with an international connection with University of Illinois at Chicago. Very exciting times ahead!

Project Working Party

The project working party Chaired by Jason Linnane, General Manager, Singleton Council, consisting of planning staff form members – Ron Zwicker (Wollongong CC), David Henry (Wollondilly SC), Heather Nicholls (Cabonne SC) and Andrew Johns (Gunnedah SC) reviewed the MERC CSG Policy in relation to the NSW Gas Plan; they have shortlisted the existing panel of consultants; prepared a Skills Matrix of what member Councils  have for renewable energy, mining and other specialised skill sets that could be accessed by members to assist with resource sharing, etc. The Coal Seam Gas policy will be presented to delegates at the February 8th 2019 meeting and the skills matrix and panel of consultants will be distributed to dlegates in due course.They have done an excellent job for delegates.

Speakers on 8th February 2019

Delegates requested that leaders of the respective major political parties be invited to the Sydney meeting in February 2019 and given the elections due in NSW in March, it has been an exercise to get them to attend or even respond to address the topic to replace the current program of “Resources for Regions” with a “Royalties for Regions” program where royalties as a set percentage are returned to the LGA’s that they were gleaned from and have been impacted by mining and energy activities to rectify infrastructure shortfalls in regional areas.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have and indicated they can’t attend to speak as Robert Borsak and Robert Brown and Phil Donato all had prior commitments but support this approach as a policy platform and will provide that to MERC in writing. Labor will be attending with the Shadow Ministers for Rural Affairs (Mick Veitch, MLC) and Leader of the Legislative Assembly and Shadow Minister for Resources, Industry, Energy and Industrial Relations (Adam Searle) talking about the topic as an election platform.

Other speakers will be David Mooney DPE on Renewables and the Large Scale Solar Guidleines fro State Sognificant Developments and Stephen Barry Director Policy DPE providing an update on Planning Policy changes, etc. plus Dr Juan Castilla – Rho, University of Wollongong talking about the Participatory Modelling project mentioned earlier in this newsletter.

Despite the failure to attract all leaders or their substitutes from the political parties to talk about “Royalties for Regions” as an election platform, these presentations should be informative & of great interest to delegates. Campaigning period is hard for them to meet us.

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

“Have your say on Tahmoor South Coal proposal” – Cr Michael Banasik has forwarded this article from the Wollondilly Advertiser, dated the 24th January 2019:-

“Works at SIMEC Mining’s Tahmoor South Coal Project could continue until 2035 if a proposal to extend the underground mining area is approved. An Environment Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed extension went on public exhibition at the Department of Planning website this week and residents have until March 5th to have their say on the proposal. The current mine was scheduled for closure in 2022, but the proposed extension would see the employment of almost 400 people continue for a further 13 years.

SIMEC’s chief operating officer Matt Reed said the current mine space had almost run its course and there was a great need to expand. “The Tahmoor operations have limited coal resource remaining in the current approved mining areas,” he said. “The Tahmoor South Project will see mining operations move to the southern part of existing leases. With the Tahmoor mine providing the high-quality coking coal required to make steel, we are confident that we have a business model to deliver strong results for our Australian operations.”

The Department of Planning’s resource assessments director Howard Reed said it was important the community read through the EIS and shared their thoughts. “Community feedback is vital and will be taken into consideration when we assess this project,” he said.

“The Minister for Planning has requested the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) hold a public hearing when the EIS exhibition has ended, to provide further opportunity for community input early in the assessment process, and the Department will also engage an independent groundwater expert.” The EIS highlighted several important issues that the proposed extended mining works would encounter. These included impacts to Thirlmere Lakes, Aboriginal heritage sites, traffic and the economy, among others.

The statement determined the extended works – which would see four million tonnes of coking and thermal coal transported per year – would have “negligible groundwater and surface water impacts on the Thirlmere Lakes that would be comparable to levels of natural variability and would be imperceptible in many circumstances”.

Research found 40 Aboriginal sites which could fall within subsidence areas. The statement said “mitigation and management for potential impacts to cultural heritage includes the preparation and implementation of a Heritage Management Plan [and] should monitoring detect the early development of potentially severe differential movements at these archaeological sites during the extraction of the early longwalls, adaptive management would be applied”. An increase in “construction and operational traffic is anticipated as a result of the proposed development”, but the impact is “considered minor”. The statement said SIMEC would work closely with Roads and Maritime Services and Wollondilly Council to minimise traffic impacts.

The EIS predicts the proposal would provide a net benefit of about $699.5 million throughout its life, “of which up to $132 million would flow through to the Wollondilly region. Community benefits would be generated primarily through employment which would peak at 422 full time equivalent employees in the operational stages following development and construction phase of the proposed development,” it read. “The proposed development is also expected to generate increased economic activity and employment within the wider NSW community, through wage spending and demand for downstream services and suppliers.”

The proposed mine extension would continue to be accessed via the existing surface facilities, with some infrastructure upgrades planned. SIMEC’s Matt Reed said the mine operators would continue their success within the community. “Tahmoor Mine has established its environmental credentials over many years and will continue to work with the community to maintain its high standards of performance,” he said. “A number of mine plan changes have been made in recent months to ensure we continue to meet this objective. “I am looking forward to hearing the community’s views on our plans, along with any opportunities to improve what we do.”

If there are more than 25 public objections received during public exhibition period, the planning department’s recommendation, including any conditions, will be referred to the IPC for a final decision. Visit to read the report.

 “Monetary Benefit Orders” An extract from the LGNSW Newsletter, 24th January 2019

In a first for environmental regulators in Australia, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has introduced a framework to strip offenders of the financial advantage gained from breaking environmental laws. The framework, which can be used by councils, helps regulators determine the benefits offenders gain through environmental crime and pursue recovery by asking the court to impose monetary benefit orders as part of sentencing packages.

A protocol for calculating monetary benefits and further information is available on the EPA website. Councils instituting criminal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court can apply for Monetary Benefit Orders, but they do not apply in local courts. The Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators network (AELERT) has developed a monetary benefits toolkit in partnership with the EPA. Network members can access these additional resources. Email AELERT to join. For more information or to join the email list for updates on MBOs email the EPA

“Large Scale Solar Energy Guidelines for State Significant Developments”  The DPE has released the following document for the information of stakeholders.

“ARENA Studies Geothermal Homes” from, 29 JANUARY 2019


“ARENA wants to study the benefits of geothermal energy in the residential sector and greenfield estates. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $500,000 in funding to Climate-KIC Australia for a three-year longitudinal study of geothermal technology. It is part of a $1.7 million project that will include a commercial-scale demonstration of renewable ground-source heat pumps being deployed in the Fairwater residential community in Blacktown, Western Sydney.

Geothermal heat pump systems will supply heating and cooling to each of the over 800 new dwellings in the Fairwater precinct. The project aims to use existing buildings to evaluate performance of energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project would demonstrate the potential of using geothermal energy to power households. “Ground sourced thermal energy being installed in new housing estates could reduce energy consumption and cost as well as benefiting the network by lowering peak demand and the associated need to invest in expensive infrastructure,” Mr Miller said. “If successful, this study could help demonstrate the value of geothermal energy to greenfield developers, potentially seeing further housing developments implement this renewable technology,” he said.

Climate-KIC will lead the project team comprising University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Curtin University, Watt Watchers and the Green Building Council of Australia, with $180,000 each of funding as well as in-kind support over three years from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and the developer of Fairwater, Frasers Property Australia. If successful, the project will pave the way by establishing a business case for industry-wide adoption of ground-source heat pumps within local, renewable and efficient energy systems.

‘”Robot Rail Complete” From 7th January 2019:

Rio Tinto says it has completed the roll out of its autonomous freight train system in iron ore operations in Western Australia. Rio’s Auto Haul program cost around $1.2 billion and includes fully or semi-autonomous drills, trains and even smaller vehicles such as light trucks.

The latest addition is Scania’s autonomous XT tipper truck system at Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt operation in Western Australia. Rio Tinto Iron Ore managing director for rail, port and core services Ivan Vella says Auto Haul has shown good early results in improving productivity and reducing bottlenecks. “Over the coming months we will continue to refine our autonomous operations to ensure we are able to maximise value,” he said “We continue to work closely with drivers during this period and do not expect to make any redundancies in 2019 as a result of the deployment of Auto Haul.”

‘Self – Driving Tests Approved” 24th January 2019 from

Victoria has approved driverless car trials on rural roads. With road fatalities five times higher on country roads than in the city, the state will investigate whether non-human drivers are better at handling dangerous conditions.

Industrial giant Bosch has received a $2.3 million state government grant for its automated vehicle technology, which will be tested on high-speed rural roads later this year. Bosch obtained the state’s first permit, but other successful applicants should be announced soon. The driverless vehicles will be exposed to a range of conditions, weather and traffic.

“The tragic fact is that you’re five times as likely to be killed on a rural road, than in the city. That’s why we’re rolling out a record roads investment in rural Victoria, and this is another way we can improve safety and save lives,” government MP Jacinta Allan said.

Bosch Australia president Gavin Smith said the technology will improve safety and reduce trauma on rural roads.

The funding comes from the $9 million Connected and Automated Vehicle Trial Grants Program, part of the Victorian Government’s $1.4 billion Towards Zero Action Plan.

In late 2017, VicRoads called for expressions of interest from companies, industry bodies and other transport technology organisations to apply for funding to spur the development of these emerging technologies, which will lead to reduced deaths and serious injuries.

“The trials will support Victoria’s readiness for automated vehicle technologies and the knowledge gained will provide a better understanding of the infrastructure required to get these vehicles on the road, maximising their safety benefits,” the government said in a statement.

Australian Energy Generation 2018 Charts – Handy Facts & Figures

The following Charts show the spread of energy sources in Australia in comparison from 2017 to 2018 outlining where the changes are in the national energy market (Provided by Warwick Giblin, Oz Environmental Pty Ltd.

Private Power Costs Counted”, 21 January 2019 from

New research suggests the privatised electricity sector costs Australian households over $200 per year. “Privatisation of the electricity industry has resulted in enormous increases in wasteful spending, including high-pressure sales tactics, excessive numbers of managers, and dizzying advertising and so-called ‘chase’ costs,” says David Richardson, Senior Research Fellow at The Australia Institute.

“The annual cost of these economically wasteful activities adds up to $2 billion per year. These costs are passed on to customers in their electricity bill, leaving households over $200 worse off a year. He said the financial sector has also reaped huge rewards from power privatisation.

“In fact, the electricity industry now spends more on finance and banking costs than it does on the actual fossil fuels to power its electricity generators,” Mr Richardson said.

The full report is accessible in PDF form, here. Its key findings include:

  • Real output per employee in the electricity sector has fallen by 37 per cent between 2000 and 2018, due to the excessive allocation of ultimately unproductive labour to advertising, sales, contract administration and other activities associated with privatisation
  • Productivity growth has been worse than for any other industry in Australia, contrary to the assumption that privatisation enhances efficiency
  • The number of sales staff employed by electricity companies has grown almost 400 per cent since the industry began to be privatised in the mid-1990s and the number of managers has grown over 200 per cent
  • Over the same period, the number of electrical tradespeople and other workers involved in actual production has grown just 21 per cent
  • Electricity sector now spends more on finance and banking costs than the actual fossil fuels that power electricity generation.


Contacts: Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) 0268492000 or

Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,

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