MERC Newsletter – May 2018


Delegates, here is the May 2018 Newsletter under the new name of the “Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils (NSW) Incorporated” as approved by the Department of Fair Trading with the acronym of MERC and new logo.

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.

Solar Farming & Energy Workshop 10th May 2018 held in Cobar

The Solar Farming workshop on Thursday 10th May 2018 IN Cobar Services Club, commenced at 1.00pm with a variety of speakers from Councils, Government and a solar product sales business speaking about how Councils can reduce energy costs and with some excellent Council examples, to balance the debate.

Also in attendance were some of the Councils from the western region that had recently been announced by the State Government as having solar farm development approvals i.e. the Mayor Balranald Shire Council, Cr Leigh Byron and General Manager Mike Kitzlemann; the Mayor Walgett Shire Council, Cr Ian Woodcock and General Manager Don Ramsland; Mayor Gilgandra Shire Council, Cr Doug Batten and Manager Economic Development, Randall Medd; Warren Shire Council, Cr Kaylene Irving and General Manager Glenn Wilcox; Liza Schipp formerly of Mid Coast Council as Director Planning & Natural Resources.

The topics and speakers were a good mix and the workshop went accordingly as follows:

  • Council Experience with Solar Farming & Energy Developments – Glenn Wilcox (Warren Shire Council and Life Member of Association);
  • Impact on Council Infrastructure from Solar and Wind Farming Projects – Michael McMahon/Chris Devitt (Dubbo Regional Council);
  • The Nevertire Solar Farm Project at Bogan Shire Council, turning the development into a Tourist attraction, a Mayor’s perspective – (Mayor, Bogan Shire Council, Nyngan, story was relayed by the Executive Officer when Ray was a last minute withdrawal);
  • Jason Robertson and Rob Ehsman, See Solar – How Councils can use solar energy for their own facilities/public safety at reduced costs versus traditional street lighting charges;
  • Renewable Energy developments in Western NSW – Ashley Albury (Department of Premier and Cabinet, Regional Director Western NSW);
  • A Department of Planning perspective about Solar Energy developments in NSW – Mike Young, (Director Resource & Energy Assessments, DPE)
  • NSW Government Energy Initiatives, etc. Hon Rick Colless (MLC, Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW and the Chair of the Western Mining Development Taskforce).

Over 40 delegates and speakers were in attendance at this extremely informative and interactive inaugural workshop held by the Association.  Presentations have been forwarded.

The media were well represented by Sharon Harland from The Cobar Weekly and the well known and extremely popular Sally Bryant, ABC presenter on rural issues, was in attendance who later spoke to the Chair and delegates with the interview broadcast throughout NSW on the ABC the following week. Sharon Harland from The Cobar Weekly wrote the following story, which appeared in the local paper on 16th May 2018:

“Council delegates hear a balanced debate on solar farming.

Cobar hosted the quarterly meeting of the Association of Mining & Energy Related Councils last week, which also included a workshop on Solar Farming.

The association advocates for members and their communities on mining and energy related issues to ensure activities are conducted in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.

The association’s chair Peter Shinton (Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council) told The Cobar Weekly the purpose of the conference was to introduce delegates to the wider field of renewable energy sources.

“We invited Councils who are embracing wind farms and solar farms and we also invited people who knew something about them. They are coming into our areas thick and fast and it’s about time we knew something about them and who to talk to,” Mr Shinton said.

Workshop speakers included representatives from Councils who had experience with solar farming and energy developments, government bodies (the Department of Planning and NSW Government Energy Initiatives) and also solar sales representatives who gave information about how Councils can reduce energy costs.

Mr Shinton said the variety of speakers at the workshop helped to balance the debate.

“You could tell by the questions asked during the workshop and some of the answers they got back, that people were really happy with the way it was organised.”

The meeting also gave members an update on the Joint Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) working party.

“It enabled us to understand the VPA pro-cesses that we are working on, and to get our template together with the Minerals Council so it can be rolled on to things like wind farms,” Mr Shinton explained.

He said currently solar farms don’t pay any VPA contributions.

“We all thought well, they don’t really upset the town for the short three of four months they are here.”

He said members were however re-thinking that after one speaker recounted their experience in a small town when 300 solar workers came in, saying the town was left short of water and the development had a large effect”

Networking Dinner on 10th May at Cobar Golf Club

Following the very sucessful workshop, over 50 delegates and partners attended the dinner in Ma’s Chinese restaurant, to talk about the presentations earlier in the day, to catch up with colleagues, and to discuss the new direction the Association is taking by including renewable energy with mining, as the way forward for securing sustainable energy, as a strong advocate for our communities affected by mining and energy related developments.

Chair Peter welcomed delegates, presenters & observers from Balranald, Warren, Gilgandra and Walgett Shire Councils and congratulated them on their presentations, participation in the workshop and attendance at our meetings and workshop. It was also good to see Hon Rick Colless and wife Geraldine, Ashley Albury (DPC) and Mike Young (DPE) attend & mingle with delegates and partners. It’s a good way to get your message across to a politician an/or senior departmental officer, the company and food wasn’t too bad either!!!

Ordinary General Meeting held on 11th May 2018

“The best attendance we have ever had at our meetings and most informative and interactive, in the last seven years or so since I have been a delegate”, one attendee said after the meeting on 11th May 2018. Three of the speakers from the day before presented new topics to discuss with delegates at the Ordinary General meeting, on the following:

  • Hon Rick Colless, MLC, Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW and Chair Western Mining Development Taskforce on the recent activities and direction of the Taskforce;
  • Ashley Albury, Regional Director Western NSW, Department Premier & Cabinet on Western NSW Renewable Energy Developments; and
  • Mike Young, Director Resource & Energy Assessments, Department Planning on “Preliminary Regional Issues Assessment Bancannia & Pondle Ranges Troughs, Far Western NSW” (Based on NSW Government’s Strategic Release Framework for Coal and Petroleum at Work)

Mike was particularly handy on DPE matters of interest.The meeting also extended to addressing the concerns about Resources for Regions criteria; a Marketing Plan adopted for growing the membership; Resources Advisory Forum issues; Alliance of Mining Cities Australia (AMCA); Research Fellowship; Coal Seam Gas Policy review; Panel of Consultants review and  and Voluntary Planning Agreement Joint Working Party progress report from Chris Wilson, etc –  most of these are dealt with later on in the Newsletter.

Mine Tour – 11th May Friday afternoon

A tour of the underground Peak Gold mine at Cobar by a dozen or so hardy delegates staying over for the weekend to take in sights and the Cobar races on the Saturday, took place on Friday afternoon. The mine tour was very informative, fun and a great experience for those who attended. Having to “suit up” with mining hi – vis PPE gear from top to toe was a new experience for some delegates and the gear helped address the chilly conditions. The Hon Rick Colless and wife Geraldine joined the tour and thorughly enjoyed themselves and the cameraderie. Cobar Golf Club provided the bus, organised by the Shire Council, thank you Lilliane, Peter and Janette for organising the tour and the morning tea for partners.

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.

Attendances have been very good to date, no quorum risks, since we have started having our Sydney meetings held at NSW Parliament House and informative regional meetings with a workshop in the afternoon and a networking dinner that night before the Ordinary General Meeting next day. A big thank you to you all that have made the effort, particularly to go to Cobar in the far west, it was a very succesful few days. Just make sure you help with apologies and numbers to attend for catering puproses when called for by the Executive Officer for future meetings to keep costs down.

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 delgates at the Ordinary meeting on 11th May, it was resolved that the concerns raised be put into a submission, as soon as possible, prepared by the working party to Chris Wilson prior to him submittimg the report to the DPE.

The concerns related to the following :- the need to include a cents per production non infrastructure contributions methodology; a recognition that each Council can negotiate their own contribution models; the provision of the proponent funding a “cumulative effects” study several years after the mine has commenced; the inclusion of a trigger for a VPA to be negotiated when the mine is sold; final agreement on the details in the timeline and framework for the VPA negotiations; the issue of nexus versus indirect social economic and environmental impacts; and when and how IPART is to be involved.

It was also agreed that it be included in the report that the DPE establish a steering committee consisting of NSW Minerals Council and the Association working party representatives, initiated and facilitated by the DPE, to achieve agreement on the outstanding issues, in order that the negotiations be finalised as soon as possible.

The submission was prepared by the working party and agreed to by the Executive Committee. It was forwarded to Chris Wilson on 28th May 2018 by the Executive Officer requesting a face to face meeting with the author and members of the working party from MERC to ensure clarity on the issues. The working party members are (Executive Officer, Cr Owen Hasler, Steve Loane and Cr Sue Moore appointed by the Executive Committee)

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

The Executive Officer attended a meeting in Sydney on 3rd May 2018 with the Deputy Premier, Hon John Barilaro; Member for Upper Hunter, Michael Johnsen; with the Mayors/General Managers of Singleton Council (Cr Sue Moore & Jason Linnane) and Cessnock City Council, (Cr Bob Pynsent & Steve Glen) representing Hunter Joint Organisation of Councils, to discuss the current Resources for Regions funding criteria.

The Association resolved that this meeting be held for the Chair and Executive Officer to attend and it was bundled with the Hunter Councils (who are members of MERC) by the office of the Deputy Premier. This was fortuitous as the Hunter Councils invited Steve Galilee from NSW Minerals Council to attend as well and so the Deputy Premier and his Senior advisor Gary Barnes (Deputy Secretary, Premier & Cabinet’s Department) were able to get a clear picture of our concerns with the co – contribution requirement, quantum, the Cost Benefit Analysis Ratio & initial intention of the funding for mining affected Council’s, etc.

The meeting was very positive and the Deputy Premier gave a commitment that he would review the current conditions before the next round commences, taking on board what was raised by the delegation and will look at the issues immediately and get back to the delegation as soon as possible. The current round of approved projects for Resources for Regions will be announced soon, he indicated. Since then, at the Ordinary General meeting, the Association has resolved the following:

  • the Association invite to the next Executive Committee and/or Ordinary Meeting for discussions on concerns about 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) the NSW State Coalition Government, Labor, Greens and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers parties.
  • The Association write to Gary Barnes, Deputy Secretary, Department Premier and Cabinet seeking confirmation of the commitment to review the current Resources for Regions criteria given by the Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, at the meeting on 3rd May 2018 held with the Association, Hunter Councils Joint Organisations of Council and’ the NSW Minerals Council before the next round of applications is called.

Since then, the Executive Officer has been contacted 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.

He sad “the government have a lot of money to allocate”. No doubt being an election lead up year, they want more Councils to receive funds for infrstructure in mining affected areas. They will be holding webinars/workshops on what they propose before the next round is announced. In the meantime, he said the current round will be announced in a few weeks!!!!


The Executive Officer has been in discussion with CIBIS on the format for the new website  after going through the contents with the Executive Committee on 10th May 2018. A Log in provision for members, more photos of mining and energy activities, condensing the number of pages, captions on photos, new logo and colours, etc. Watch this space……

Strategic Plan 2018 – 2020

The Strategic Plan 2018 – 2020 was adopted at the Special General Meeting in Sydney on 23rd February 2018 with changes reflected in the minutes of the Special General Meeting 23rd February 2018, which have now been distributed to delegates. A copy of the Strategic Plan is on the website.

The Executive Officer has developed a report format (agreed to by the Executive Committee) which will be submitted to them quarterly and attached as part of the Ordinary meeting Executive Officer’s report with comments on progress with the actions therein. The same will be the case with any outstanding decisions of MERC, delegates to get the report.

Constitution Review

The amended Constitution has now been approved by the Department of Fair Trading and is posted on the web site. However there was one thing still to be finalised with the interpretation of “a minimum of two terms “ for Life Membership eligibility Clause 4.5 (is it two terms as a delegate of the Council for the term of the Council ie  two four year terms or two years as an annual appointment as the delegate of the Council for two terms?).

The Executive Committee determined at their 10th May 2018 meeting and agreed to by delegates that it be noted that the “two terms” in 4.5 Life Membership, in the constitution, refer to the nominee having been a Council delegate to the Association for a minimum period of two terms of four or three years (if amalgamated), not two annual appointments.

Next Meetings of Association for 2018 – November

We will have another round of regional meetings and a workshop in the Upper Lachlan Shire in November when its warmer!!! The Executive Officer has been discussing arrangements with the Acting General Manager for November and the Council is keen to be involved as it has the most number of wind farms in its Shire in Australia. Their Tourism and Promotions Manager is to contact the Executive Officer shortly to start the organisation of the occasion.

Speakers at future meetings

The Hon Rick Colless, MLC, who has been mentioned throughout this Newsletter, in view of his recent assistance and attendance at our meetings and workshop in Cobar, is the sponsor for MERC to have meetings at NSW Parlaiment House, plus he has also indicated if any members need any assistance in getting to the members of parliament for a meeting to contact his office for his assistance. In view of this gesture, we should have no problems getting speakers in due course from the Coalition parties.

The Executive Officer has been informed that Minister Barilaro is unavailable for 9/10th August 2018 due to electorate commitments but has indicated Gary Barnes, Deputy Secretary, Premier and Cabinet’s Department and Member for Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen will represent him to talk about Resources for Regions criteria. This meeting was organised outside of the offer from Hon Rick Colless through Barilaro’s office.

The Labor party (Luke Foley/Adam Searle), Greens (Jeremy Buckingham/Adam Shoebridge) and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers parties (Phil Donato) will also be approached to attend future meetings as will the Clean Energy Council (Anna Freeman), Clean Energy Regulator, National Wind Alliance and Wind Farm Commissioner (Andrew Dyer) will be approached.

Membership Campaign

Wow, since the May meeting the Executive Officer has been informed that Warren and Walgett Shire Councils have resolved to join the Association and Balranald have indicated they would but are yet to resolve to do so. This will make the membership 23 again. Well done to all involved in promoting our Association.

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 Executive Committee 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

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. They will have a stand at the ALGA Conference in Canberra later this month for those interested in more details. The Executive Officer is awaiting a detailed outline from the Acting CEO, Craig Wilson, on their objectives and arrangements for the three tiers of membership. The Association has resolved that further details be obtained & report submitted to delegates at next meeting in August when to hand.

Research Fellowship Update

Awaiting submission from University Technology Sydney for how they could be involved in an arangement with MERC via an MOU to prepare papers on specific mining and energy related topics outlined in the Strategic Plan, as a research partner in lieu of a research fellowship arrangement. They are keen to address delegates at a future meeting.

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

“Jobs a breeze for wind farm commissioner” Nicole Hasham, Sydney Morning Herald, 1st June 2018 The Commissioner’s role was established in 2015 to monitor the wind industry and respond to community complaints about turbine noise and health effects. The article says some people believe the low frequency sound of wind turbines causes health issues for nearby residents. However, the Australian Medical Association and the National Health & Medical Research Council say such claims have not been conclusively proven. He had 163 complaints relating to noise, potentioal health impacts, amenity, lack of community consultation, economic loss and flickering shadows fom wind turbines. 145 were resolved, 52 were closed as they were not pursued by the complainant. 84 were resolved by providing information. The Climate Change Authority are saying the role should be extended to address concerns aboyt solar projects. Refer

‘Adani to pay for Isaac Council staff working on Carmichael mine activities” ABC website 28th May 2018. Adani is to bankroll the Council staff to deal with the extraordinary workload created by the Cramichael mine project to the extent of $1.15m in wages, housing and vehicle costs for 4 employees to assess the project- an executive and legal support officer, a senior engineering manager and two field officers. This is supported by  LGA Qld siad the deal was lawful and above board. Anti corruption think tank Transparency International Australia think otherwise. Same deal occurred in Gladstone’s 3 LNG Plants project for several Councils a few years ago. Recent negotiations for a VPA with  a proponent near Fifield, NSW, Forbes, Lachlan and Parkes Shire Councils will receive a “Project Facilitation Contribution” of $30k pa to be used for management and administrative costs if needed during the 2-3 year construction phase. Refer

‘AGL plans pumped hydro after Liddell” Cole Latimer and Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald 26-27Th May 2018 “AGL is working wth Japanese company Idemitsu to transform a Hunter Valley coal mine into a pumped hydro storage power plant to replace energy lost when AGL closes the Liddell power station in 2022. Issues AGL could face in turning a coal mine into pumped hydro storage are that it is not deep enough to have significant water flowing and coal dust in the water. Refer


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