MERC Newsletter – July 2018


Delegates, here is the July 2018 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.

Wind Farming & Energy Workshop 8th November 2018 held in Crookwell

The Wind Farming workshop will be held on Thursday 8th November 2018 in Crookwell, to commence at 1.00pm with a variety of speakers from Councils, Government etc about how Councils can manage wind energy developments more effectively with some excellent Council examples, with the focus on wind farming and renewable energy generally. The workshop at Cobat has set the bar high!

Invitations will be sent to Yass Valley Council, Goulburn Mulwaree Regional Council, Oberon Shire Council, Cowra Shire Council, Hilltops Regional Council, Snowy River Regional Council, Glen Innes Shire Council, Inverell Shire Council, Queanbeyan City Councils etc., with operational, under construction or proposed wind farms in NSW as outlined on the Dept Planning website.

Yass Valley Council recently held their own in house workshop on the “for and against” arguments of wind farms so Councillors and the community can be better informed when they are required to determine any wind farm developments and manage existing developments.  Director Planning Services, Yass Shire Council, Chris Barry has been invited to present to our workshop, awaiting a response.

Mike Young (DPE Director Resource & Energy Assessments), who presented to the Cobar workshop and meeting is interested in attending in view of his senior role in the DPE and in assessing developments such as wind farms.

We will be pursuing the Clean Energy Council, Clean Energy Regulator, National Wind Alliance and Wind Farm Commissioner to attend and participate which will give the workshop a more in depth perspective.To top it off, hopefully the Deputy Premier and Leader of the National Party, Hon John Barilaro can be enticed to attend and participate, as the member for Monaro, a bit further south of Crookwell.

Andrew Warren, Tourism Manager, Upper Lachlan Shire Council, Crookwell is assisting with the organisation of the workshop, dinner, AGM, Executive and Ordinary meetings and activities for the visit to the Upper Lachlan region in November 2018, his help has been very beneficial to date, as you can see with the details in this Newsletter.

Next MERC meetings in Sydney 9/10th August 2018

The Executive Committee will meet at 2.00pm in the McKell Room, NSW Parliament House, on 9th August 2018. The Ordinary meeting will be held the next day on 10th August 2018 in the Preston Stanley Meeting Room, NSW Parliament House to commence from 9.00am and finish at 1.00pm with lunch. It is near the Strangers Dining Room, delegates will have to be screened to get in, so allow time to do so.You will have to wear lanyards with your name on them to be provided by MERC to enter the secured area where we will be. We have 16 Councils represented at 2/8/18.

If you are attending the meetings on 9th (Executive Committee) and 10th August 2018 (Ordinary General) in Sydney at NSW Parliament House meeting and you haven’t already done so please can you advise the Executive Officer by email to as soon as possible for registrations, catering has been a quesstimate!!!.

Speakers for the Meeting in NSW Parliament House 10th August 2018

Speakers confirmed for the meeting on 10th August 2018 on Resources for Regions are:

  • Phil Donato, Member for Orange (Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party);
  • Michael Johnsen, Member for Upper Hunter (National Party) and Gary Barnes, Deputy Secretary Premier & Cabinet’s Department (representing Deputy Premier, Hon John Barilaro);
  • Hon Adam Searle MLC, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources & Energy and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations;
  • Matthew Nelson, Director Complinace Operations for Andrew Keon, Chief Compliance Officer, Resources Regulator.

The Greens have been contacted and have advised that Jeremy Buckingham is the nominated spokesperson for them on mining & energy related issues, awaiting confirmation of attendance. If they all turn up it should be a very interesting session especially with the impending State Elections in March 2019!

Update on the Joint Voluntary Planning Agreement Working Party (VPAWP)

A copy of the draft report from Chris Wilson was forwarded to delegates before the meetings on 10/11th May 2018 and following a briefing from the working party and discussions with delegates at the Ordinary meeting on 11th May, it was resolved that the concerns raised be put into a submission to Chris Wilson prior to him submitting the report to the DPE. This was done and Chris Wilson has forwarded the report to DPE on 30th June 2018 with our comments therein.

We are waiting on a copy of the report for further consideration by the working party. The Executive Officer has been speaking with Stephen Barry at DPE to get a copy of the report and to set a date to have a meeting with NSW Minerals Council CEO and their new Director Policy; the DPE and our VPA working party members, as soon as possible. The aim of the forum is to go over the areas not in agreement and determine a path forward to get agreement, so the Guidelines can be finalised by our Annual General Meeting in November 2018. To date of this Newsletter a meeting wont be held until after week beginning 13th August 2018 when DPE organises it. Still no report to hand but meeting imminent.

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

At the Ordinary General meeting held in Cobar on 11th May 2018, the Association resolved to invite leaders of the State Government, Opposition, Greens and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Parties to talk to delegates about concerns we have with the current Resources for Regions criteria i.e. cost benefit analysis, co – contribution and original intention of returning funds to the mining affected areas from where the royalties were raised, for infrastructure developments, etc. There has been a good response as outlined in the speakers for next meeting section of this newsletter.

The Executive Officer has been advised by Chris Hanger, NSW Infrastructure, on the changes the government is considering to make to the criteria for Resources for Regions easier to meet by Councils by decreasing the co contribution funding to 25% and including a hardship case provision, if this cant be met; introducing a Location Quotient (LQ) based on ABS 2016 statistics for mining affected areas and employment in mining activities where a Council has to get the LQ greater than 1 and if they do they don’t have to present a case that they are mining affected, if less than 1 they do; introduction of a minimum grant for the project at a scale of $1million, etc. They still want to see Councils putting in their dollars where they can! Rest of the Guidelines to be the same such as the Cost Benefit Ratio.

Short listed applicants were promised in March 2018 that the last round of the Resources for Regions Grants would be released by end of May 2018, the process started mid last year….


The website has been altered to reflect our new direction, with further changes to be considered by the Executive Committee on 9th August, have a look and provide feedback. There is a new part where delegates can access minutes by either registration or log in with Execiutive Officer (to be determined), to ensure there is a members only feature.

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

MERC delegate, Cr Owen Hasler attended the RAF meeting on 21st June 2018 and will provide an informed summary at our Ordinary meeting in August. In the meantime, he has requested that since the Voluntary Land Acquisition for Mining Projects from Adjoining Owners (VLAMP) Guidelines developed by the DPE have been implemented this year, if any Councils have had non compliance issues or where compliance is seen to be less than expected or not reflective of the VLAMP Guidelines they should raise them with the DPE. The contact persons are Dr Oliver Holmes, Director Compliance and Marcus Rae, Director Planning as they are looking for specific examples where this has been happening.

Next Meetings of Association for 2018 – 8/9th November

We will have another regional meeting and a workshop on 8th/9th November 2018 in the Upper Lachlan Shire, at Crookwell, when its warmer!!! The Executive Officer has been discussing arrangements with the Acting General Manager and the Council is keen to be involved. Upper Lachlan Shire Council area has the most number of wind farms in its Shire in Australia and on its website the Gullen Range Wind & Solar Farm is the first hybrid Solar & Wind Farm in Australia where they publish regular tours.

The Executive Committee will meet in the Upper Lachlan Council Chamber at 9am to 12pm on 8th November 2018 after this the Wind Farm workshop (commencing from 1pm to 4pm) will be held in the Crookwell Memorial Hall. The AGM & Ordinary meeting on 9th November 2018 will also be held in the Crookwell Memorial Hall. The dinner will be a la carte on the 8th November 2018 to be held at the Crookwell Services Club. Catering for the meetings will be provided by Leave it to Me!

Accommodation (for the Executive Committee that has to bump in on Wednesday night 7th November 2018 for their meeting next morning from 9am), has been reserved by the Upper Lachlan Council at the Uplands Pastures Motel. On the weekend from Friday 9th November 2018, after our meetings, there is a very popular Garden Festival being held, which may place some pressure on bookings if Festival goers want to book in beforehand. I recommend delegates book early. All accommodation options in and around the town of Crookwell are available on the following link, buses to/from the villages may be available or organised, if accommodation is required out of town: –

Membership Campaign

The Executive Officer has been informed formally that Warren and Walgett Shire Councils have resolved to join the Association and Balranald have indicated they would verbally but are yet to formalise it. Gilgandra have advised “Council resolved to decline the invitation to join at this stage on the basis that there is no solar farm in the Gilgandra Shire Council area with a voluntary planning agreement. Membership will be reconsidered if a formal solar project application occurs in the future”.

In discussions with prominent people in Local Government, the critical point of difference and selling points of our Association are that the Association is specific on its issues; has seen there is a need to be the voice for energy for Councils; is not hampered by getting involved with the broader whole of state matters; has a seat at the table; its advice is sought by the government; we have experienced delegates on government working groups representing the members voices; we are not political and don’t have any collaborative problems within our group of dedicated delegates!

Why wouldn’t a Council join or or why would they leave, you have to ask the question are they truly representing their constituents under the Local Government Act when mining and energy issues are affecting their communities, are the legislated planning processes adequate to do this? Keep talking to your neighbours about the benefits of being a member of MERC.

The Association at its May meeting 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. The foray into wind farming in the south will again provide more opportunities to present our case for them to join us. Southern NSW and New England areas will be targeted in due course, like we have with Orana and will with the Upper Lachlan Council neighbouring areas.

 Australian Mining Cities Alliance (AMCA)

The meeting at Cobar on 11th May 2018 provided the opportunity for the Mayor of Broken Hill City Council, Cr Darriea Turley to explain the background to the formation of the alliance and its objectives as a Federal body and its objectives.

Since then an invitation to join the AMCA has been received and provided to the Executive Committee to make a recommendation to delegates on Friday 10th August 2018. The fee structure is interesting if MERC wanted to join “as a not for profit organisation with a strong stake in the relevance of mining in Australia’s mining cities”, it will cost a one off $10,000 fee plus $7000 pa.

 Research Fellowship Update

The Executive Officer has had discussions with representatives of the University Technology Sydney on how they could be involved in an arrangement with MERC via an MOU to prepare papers on specific mining and energy related topics that are outlined in the Strategic Plan, as a research partner in lieu of a research fellowship arrangement. Trying to get them to meet and or discuss options with Executive Officer has been difficult in view of the workload of the Professor involved.

Project Working Party

Jason Linnane, General Manager Singleton Council has agreed to Chair the working party consisting of the Executive Officer, planning staff that regularly attend MERC meetings in Ron Zwicker, Heather Nicholls, David Henry and Andrew Johns.

The working party will work with the Executive Officer to review the current MERC CSG Plan in relation to the NSW Energy Plan; the existing panel of consultants; prepare a survey of member Councils for renewable energy, mining and other specialised skill sets that could be accessed by members to assist with resource sharing, etc. Ron Zwicker has done some preliminary work on the projects already.

This initiative is a resource sharing one in itself! Thank you all The working party will have the projects finalised for updates to the November Meetings.

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

‘”Hunter Valley Mine winding down10th July 2018, Refer

Yancoal has announced over 200 employees will be stood down or re-deployed from the Austar coal mine in NSW. The mine at Paxton, west of Cessnock, will be stripped down to a skeleton crew in line with compliance requirements. The 100-year-old mine was the site of an incident in 2014 that killed two men, Philip Grant, 35, of Metford and 49-year-old Jamie Mitchell of Aberdare. They were working about 10 kilometres from the mine’s entry and 500 metres below ground when a wall collapsed.

All underground longwall production activities at the operation have been prohibited following two prohibition notices issued after significant coal burst events in which coal suddenly and violently erupts into the mine. The first Resources Regulator notice came in February 2018 when approximately 50 tonnes of coal was ejected from the face of the mine, injuring one worker. A second notice came in May 2018 after an estimated 60 tonnes of coal was ejected, with about two tonnes landing in the walkway. No workers were injured, but the coal burst caused significant damage to equipment.

The mine has permission for some controlled cutting under strict conditions to test additional ways to mitigate a coal burst risk. The Resources Regulator says the notices will remain in place until detailed geotechnical assessments and comprehensive risk controls are implemented.

Yancoal Australia CEO Reinhold Schmidt said efforts are being made to move employees to other mines. “We have worked to redeploy the majority of the Austar workforce to the Ashton, Abel and Moolarben underground mines in the interests of providing continued employment for our people,” he said. “Until all legal avenues have been exhausted and we can re-enter the mine to move the longwall, we are unable to continue proposed longwall activity.”


The State of Clean Energy: How are the states tracking on renewables?” Tara Tyrell, Queesnland Mining & Energy Bulletin, July 25th 2018.

Victoria is undergoing a rapid transition from one dominated by brown coal to one where close to half of consumption is met by renewables. By 2020 Victorian renewables plants will generate 39.4% of the state’s power consumption, a dramatic expansion from the 17.7% share in 2015. By 2030 renewable generation would grow to 45.7% of consumption thanks to ongoing growth of rooftop solar alone.

Queensland has awoken from its renewable slumber and has demonstrated the fastest growth in renewables supply and development. Between 2010 and 2015 there was almost no expansion in large-scale renewables in QLD and renewables represented just 7.4% of 2015 consumption. By 2020 Queensland will meet 25% of electricity consumption from renewables. Even more impressively, the projects being pursued by companies for development could generate power equal to more than 90% of consumption in 2030, but most of these projects are unlikely to get off the ground given the weak targets on offer under the Turnbull government’s National Energy Guarantee.

NSW is the laggard of the pack, falling short of 20% renewables by 2020 – well behind other states. NSW is currently on track to just 19.7% renewables by 2020 and 26.1% by 2030.

Other states are outpacing NSW in terms of project development. The projects currently being scoped could generate more than half its expected 2030 electricity consumption if they were to be constructed, but again this is unlikely without a major change in state policy and much stronger NEG targets.

Tasmania and South Australia are moving towards a position where they could generate more renewable energy than they could consume, even with greater energy storage. Projections suggest their future is as clean power exporters.

South Australia is on track to renewables generation equal to 70% of the state’s electricity consumption by 2020 and 85% by 2030. Its full pipeline of projects undergoing development could generate more than twice the state’s 2030 consumption. Thanks to two new wind farms Tasmania can continue to meet its needs entirely with renewable energy. But it could generate 20% more renewable energy than it consumes if its development projects were to proceed to construction.

Get Up Campaigns Director Miriam Lyons said the REI reveals that with strong targets and the right political leadership Australia could have a clean and green future, but development will remain dormant under current federal government policies and progress will be lost.

“The rapid ramp-up in investment in the past three years have shown the kind of growth possible with strong targets and supporting policy and demonstrates we can reach for far greater targets down the track. The NEG does nothing to build on this progress and sends us backwards when we could be bounding forward as a world leader in clean energy, creating jobs and taking action on climate change in the process. What the REI demonstrates is there’s a clear option here, we kill off renewables growth and pollute the planet with a do nothing NEG, or we develop a policy that sets strong targets and continues the renewables boom and delivers a cleaner and greener Australia.”

Satisfaction with electricity providers declining” Tara Tyrell, Queensland Mining & Energy Bulletin, 25th July 2018, reports on the latest satisfaction levels (Roy Morgan) as follows:

New results from Roy Morgan show that customer satisfaction with electricity providers in the 12 months to May 2018 was only 56.6%, down from 60.4% in the 12 months to May 2017. NPS® for electricity providers is also now at a very low minus 47.6.  These low satisfaction and NPS levels show why 2.1 million customers are considering switching over the next 12 months. These are the latest findings from Roy Morgan’s ‘Customer Satisfaction – Electricity Providers Report’ which is based on in-depth personal interviews conducted face-to-face with over 50,000 Australians per annum in their own homes, including over 14,000 interviews with people who rated their satisfaction with their electricity connection. 

Red Energy retains satisfaction lead. Red Energy with a satisfaction rating of 70.0% remains in top position among the largest providers, narrowly ahead of Simply Energy (65.0%) and Energy Australia (64.4%). There is a wide range of satisfaction levels across the major players, with Ergon Energy on 53.7% being currently the lowest performer. With satisfaction declining by 3.8% points across the total market over the last year, it is not surprising that declines in satisfaction were seen across nearly all the major players with the exception of Actew AGL which improved by 2.4% points, Ergon up 2.4% points, and Aurora Energy (up 1.1% points). Both of the largest players showed a drop in satisfaction, with Origin down 9.4% points (to 54.2%) and AGL down 0.6% points (to 61.2%).

Satisfaction level with electricity provider impacts switching intentions. The survey shows that the level of satisfaction across the five point scale has a direct impact on switching intentions. For example, nearly half (43.7%) of the customers who are ‘very dissatisfied’ with their electricity provider say that they are either ‘very likely’ or ‘fairly likely’ to switch companies in the next 12 months. Even more than a third (36.0%) of those who are ‘fairly dissatisfied’ say they are likely to switch in the next 12 months. Those customers who are ‘very satisfied’ have a very low intention to switch at only 4.9%, which is well below the current industry average of 10.6%. Even those who are only ‘fairly satisfied’ have a below average intention (8.1%) to switch providers in the next 12 months.

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan, says: “The decline in satisfaction with electricity providers over the last year, down to only 56.6% is of major concern because it is well below the level of 73.5% when this survey began in 2009. It is likely that the most recent decline is a result of the continual negative news regarding energy shortages, blackouts, reliability, price increases and general lack of confidence in the long term direction the government is taking to tackle these issues. It is important to note that although most of the major electricity providers are operating in a similar negative environment, the fact that there are major differences in satisfaction show that there are lesson to be learnt by examining what the better performers are doing right. The data used here is only a small part of the extensive data that we have available on all major utilities. To find out more, ask Roy Morgan.”

“Shenhua Exploration Licence Approved” Refer 24th July 2018,

The NSW Government has partly renewed the coal exploration licence for the controversial Shenhua Watermark project. While some exploration will be allowed to continue, the Government says it will not release other parts of the Liverpool Plains for exploration. Resources Minister Don Harwin said the decision was made after a rigorous assessment.

It comes about a year after Mr Harwin announced a Government buy-back of 51.4 per cent of Shenhua’s exploration licence, at a cost of $262 million. The Government said at the time that it wanted to protect the farming future of the Liverpool Plains, which is suffering under severe drought conditions. Now, Mr Harwin says “prime agricultural land of black soil plains” is protected from mining exploration. The deal “struck the right balance between protecting the area’s farming future while encouraging investment in the resources sector,” he said. “We will not release other parts of the Liverpool Plains for exploration.”

The company still needs mining production leases and other approval from the State Government before it can do any mining. Federal Government sign-off on biodiversity and water management plans would also be required before production begins.

The state’s opposition said it was a “disturbing development” with a “very significant and detrimental impact” likely. “The water table is all linked, water that serves the Liverpool Plains will also be the water table that the mining company will need to draw on for its mine,” Labor Resources spokesperson Adam Searle said. “The whole ecosystem in that area is completely linked and it’s completely false to suggest that there will be no impact on the Liverpool Plains.”


If you have any queries in relation to this newsletter please do not hesitate to contact the Chair or the Executive Officer to see how we can assist you in your busy role as a Council delegate to the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils.

Our contacts are:- Chair, Clr Peter Shinton, by email or phone at Council on 02 68492000 or the Executive Officer, Greg Lamont, by email or or phone on 0407937636.


Greg Lamont                                                                                      Clr Peter Shinton

Executive Officer                                                                               Chair

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