Delegates, here is the November MERC Newsletter, please circulate the Newsletter 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.
COVID-19 Virus Impact on MERC
The NSW Government is working very closely with Councils to support communities across the state in response to COVID-19. Consequently, there will be changes as circumstances alter that will affect MERC and members going forward due to the NSW Government’s respective Ministerial Public Health Orders to implement controls as necessary to combat the COVID -19 Virus.
The next MERC Ordinary meeting likely to be as a “face to face” meeting at Wollongong with capability to attend by video conference and the Executive Committee having a zoom meeting some time before hand either day before or week before, in view of the Covid-19 position and the success of the meeting cycle held in November.
Two year terms and Nominations for Executive Committee
MERC is to consider the Executive Committee being elected for two year terms and to clarify the wording in Clause 7.1 of the constitution on the composition of the Executive Committee on whether two from any one member Council can be on it, at the Special General in February 2021. Executive Committee has re worded Clause 7.1
Next Meetings for the Association in 2021
Wollongong City Council has agreed to host the next meeting of MERC on 26th February 2021 with dlegates meeting for a Network Dinner evening before. Any member Councils interested in hosting the May, August or November meetings please contact the Executive Officer, noting that some of these meetings may be in Sydney to catch Ministers to speak – Kean and Barilaro.
Executive Committee Election Results 2020
Under the constitution, MERC is required to have one General Meeting (the Annual General) a year and as many other General (Ordinary) Meetings as the Executive Committee determine. MERC must have four Executive Committee meetings a year. The Executive is to be elected annually at the AGM by delegates.
Nominations were called for the Executive Committee in November and as the number received equalled to the 6 vacancies the results of the poll was declared by the Returning Officer, Rebecca Ryan, General Manager, Blayney Shire Council as follows:
Chair – Cr Peter Shinton; Deputy Chairs – Crs Owen Hasler & Michael Banasik and Executive – Crs Phyllis Miller OAM, Sue Moore & Katheryn Smith. Congratulations to you all.
MERC will be particpating in the 2021 LGNSW Annual Conference with stand, attend dinner, target/talk to potential members, to include pamphlets, notepads with “We are your voice – become a member” or suchlike (badges) on them for handouts, a banner indicating locality of members throughout NSW, a video to play on a laptop to link back to the webpage, set up a membership page on the website, etc and do a presentation to the Country Mayor’s Association at a future meeting, relying on “face to face” conversation and relationship selling.
Discussions on the content of a membership web page and the marketing content with the principal of Cibis has occurred. Volunteers are still required to provide testimonials via video and Executive Officer has provided scripts and guidleines for the videos.Forbes Shire Council are leading the way, call Executive Officer if interested.
List of Speakers for future meetings of MERC
MERC will be continually pursuing the following speakers for future meetings
- Hon Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning & Public Spaces, Liberal Party;
- Hon Matt Kean, Minister for Energy & Environment, Liberal Party;
- Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Investment & Trade, Leader of NSW National Party;
- Hon Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture & Western NSW, National Party;
- David Shoebridge MLC (Energy) & Abigail Boyd MLC (Mining), from The Greens;
- Other relevant Opposition party members and government senior officers will also be pursued for meetings as required depending on locality of the meetings – Shadow Minister for Local Government (Greg Warren) keen to address delegates post COVID;
- Leader of Shooters, Fishers and Famrers Party in Legislative Assembly & MP ofr Orange, Phil Donato;
- Relevant Senior Departmental Executives;
- CEO’s, Clean Energy Council and Clean Energy Finance Corporation, ARENA, etc.
Research Fellowship Update
Here is the latest update from Peter Dupen (PhD student) which the Executive Officer has been following up regularly as the Executive Committee is keen to see this project commence, recognising the difficulties experienced during COVID 19:
“the new news is that Aurelia just called me to advise that Aurelia do not wish to proceed with the PM-enhanced engagement. Essentially the business has concluded that they don’t wish to provoke unnecessary attention to the proposal by taking part in our trial. I’m disappointed but not despondent.
The fact that Aurelia nearly said yes makes me optimistic that we can find another mining project which does see sufficient merit in early stakeholder understanding (rather than rumour-driven) and identification of stakeholder thresholds of concern at the outset of a proposal. One big advantage is that it would provide much greater certainty as to whether they should proceed or amend before too much money is spent.
Steve O’Donoghue (DPIE) has been scouting around for alternative projects and says the only mining proposals in the Goldilocks zone are some mineral sands projects out past Broken Hill – nearest landowner 5 kms away. I mentioned windfarms but he says there’s none in pre-EIS stage right now that they know of, much more solar. No promising pumped hydro projects.
It looks like getting a development project to suit is becoming a real issue for the PhD Research Project for MERC and despite the fact progress has been made with a web – interface platform and the Project Evaluation Plan, the project is having difficulty getting off the ground which does not augur well for its’ future.
The Executive Committee on 20th November 2020 after discussions with Peter Dupen decided to extend the project until next meeting in February 2021 to determine the future of the project if a development project can’t be found, it will likely be squashed and other options considered.
Strategic Plan 2020 – 2023 Review
The Strategic Plan 2020-23 Strategic Directions, Deliverables and Actions compiled by the working party has been adopted by delegates at the Ordinary meeting on 27th November 2020 and is full of new strategies to be implemented over the next three years which will help with membership and members.
Update on CRC for Transformations in Mining Economies
MERC was invited last year to be a NSW partner in the establishment of the national Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Transformations in Mining Economies (CRC TiME) being established in Perth, Western Australia, at University of Western Australia, at no cost to MERC. This fits in with our strategic plan by being involved in making a difference through research partnerships with Universities and industry in Australia on various topics such as rehabilitation and post mining impacts on economies.
The national partnership was required to get the grant to set up the CRC for transforming mining economies from mining to no mining plus value add them. More will come from this partnership and delegates will be kept informed in due course from their regular newsletters.
The Executive Officer has confirmed an interest in participating in order for MERC to stay in the loop to see what opportunities may emerge for MERC and members in accordance with our Strategic Plan deliverables with research.
Renewable Energy Zones
The NSW Government is implementing three pilots and one of them is the 3,000 megawatt Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) in the Central-West of NSW as part of their Electricity Strategy, Net Zero Plan and the Commonwealth-NSW Memorandum of Understanding on Energy and Emissions. Stu Hodgson addressed delegates on the REZ at the Executive Committee meeting on 14th August 2020 and indicated that they would like MERC to have a representative on their Regional Reference Group (RRG) going forward, more details to come.
An inaugural Regional Reference Group (RRG) Central West REZ meeting was held on 29th October 2020 to establish the terms of reference for the quarterly meetings. MERC to be involved going forward with Executive Officer being part of the three pilot groups to provide feedback to MERC members. For more information about NSW REZs please visit www.energy.nsw.gov.au/renewable-energy-zones, or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submission to the Productivity Commission on its Review of the Infrastructure Contributions System in NSW
The Productivity Commissioner has spoken further to MERC representatives on our submission particularly mining planning agreements and rating. The meeting was held on 27th October at 9.30am by zoom with Chair, Executive Officer, Cr Hasler, Steve Loane and Warwick Giblin as members of the VPA working party.
Despite this positive meeting, the Productivity Commissioner’s report was released on 3rd December 2020 and appear to not have taken much notice of work done by MERC with NSW Minerals Council on VPA’s. It is is available on the NSW Productivity Commission’s website. It contains 29 recommendations to:
- Move towards a principles-based infrastructure contributions system based on certainty, efficiency, simplicity, transparency and consistency;
- Enhance the capacity of councils to support growth;
- Strike a balance between efficiency, simplicity and certainty for local infrastructure contributions;
- Develop a stronger funding base for State and regional infrastructure;
- Make the system more consistent, transparent and easy to navigate; and
- Better align infrastructure contributions and strategic planning and delivery.
DPIE has advised that the Government will now consider the report’s recommendations and seek the input of stakeholders in developing a roadmap to implement system reform. A Government response is expected to be released in early 2021.
Delegates are urged to read sections behind recommendations 4.12 and 4.13 of this report in light of the concerns raised by delegates with mining rates at the recent LGNSW Conference and MERC meeting on 27th November 2020 and VPA’s.
Rating Review by LGNSW – IPART Review Recommendation 34
Further to the information above raised with the Productivity Commissioner on 14th August 2020, MERC distributed the IPART report and State Government’s response, it was discussed further by delegates on 27th November 2020, since then the Executive Officer has been in contact with LGNSW about their rates modelling and actions since the LGNSW Conference.
Shaun McBride, LGNWS Chief Economist, in a response to this has indicated that they are addressing the many motions passed at the LGNSW Conference in November 2020 and has provided a copy of the letter sent to the Minister for Local Government from the President of LGNSW Linda Scott about the rating motions, which will be distributed to delegates along with the Exposure Draft on the proposed legislation changes when a public document and to hand.
Delegates on 27th November 2020, raised their concerns about the possibility of the State Government preparing a negative impact for Councils on mining rating in their Exposure Draft for the legislation changes. MERC hasn’t seen this document yet but understand it to be in support of Recommendation 34 from the IPART report about mining rates.
If its any guide, the Productivity Commissioners’ latest report mentioned above in Recommendation 4.12 & 4.13 demonstrates that he doesn’t support all the work MERC did with NSW Minerals Council and DPIE on planning agreements as being “not consistent with a principles-based approach” and has some strong views on suggested rate peg changes that he has adopted for his report, obviously reflecting the strong lobbying the NSW Minerals Council has done on the government and the Productivity Commissioner.
Meeting hosted by Blayney Shire Council on 27th November 2020
The Mayor Scott Ferguson, General Manager Rebecca Ryan, Blayney Shire Council and staff made delegates very welcome when we bumped in for the AGM and Ordinary meeting last week. A tour of the proposed site by 4WD of the Regis Resources McPhillamy’s Gold Mine was a highlight and conducted by Tony McPaul, CEO of the development which hasn’t been approved as yet but unfortunately has progressed past the approval stage that would suit the PhD Research project.
Tony is also the Chair of the NSW Minerals Council and provided an interesting insight into how State Significant Developments approvals work and progress with this mine and the issues. There are some critical matters to be solved such as water and rural residential farms/hobby farms located near the proposed mine.
Delegates spent the evening dining in the grounds of the spectacular “Athol Gardens” accommodation & restaurant venue networking in preparing for the face to face and virtual meetings next day. Thank you Scott and Rebecca for organising the tour, dinner and the technology for the meetings and David and Karen for their hospitality.
Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues
“Matt Kean takes on Angus Taylor-I’m not on the side of vested interests” Renew Economy 24th November 2020. New South Wales energy minister Matt Kean has delivered a strong defense of the NSW government’s electricity strategy, rejecting criticism from federal energy minister Angus Taylor, saying that he stood with consumers rather than with “vested interests” and that they should ‘get out of the way’.
In extraordinary tit-for-tat speeches at the AFR’s online Energy and Climate Summit on Monday, Kean and his federal counterpart lifted the veil of Coalition unity, as Taylor insisted on his ‘gas-led’ approach, while Kean argued that his state’s embrace of clean energy sources would ultimately leave households and businesses better off with cheaper supplies of energy.
Earlier in the day, Taylor had expressed his concern that energy policies were being developed by state governments independent of the federal government, or as some would observe, in the plan of a feral policy vacuum. In particular, Taylor said the NSW energy plans would see large-scale coal generators pushed out of the market by a combination of renewable energy and storage projects.
“I have been concerned about accountability in the energy market. We all need to be accountable to hardworking energy customers,” Taylor told the AFR summit. “That is the households, small businesses and industry who rely on affordable energy to make ends meet and in many cases for their livelihoods.
“I’m concerned about models and analysis including unrealistic assumptions that don’t translate into the real world. We shouldn’t see models that assume large coal generators stay in the market despite policy changes that seriously undermine profitability and commercial sustainability. If policymakers want to force out coal generators prematurely, they should say that upfront,” Taylor added.
Kean, whose office has masterminded the plan to support the construction of much as 12GW of new wind and solar projects and 2GW storage capacity over the next ten years, responded in kind. “I’m confident that we will get this right to protect the consumers and businesses in New South Wales,” Kean said. “I’m not here to support vested interests. I’m here to support the community interest and that’s exactly what this policy does.
“I’m here to put consumers first. I’m here to look after the businesses and families of New South Wales and if the vested interests want to stand in the way, then I say to them, ‘get out of the way, let us get on with delivering cheaper, reliable energy. Let us make sure we provide the right market settings to get the private sector to invest with confidence and get that kit built. Kean also said NSW had done its modelling: “We need to make sure that we’ve got the right regulatory settings and the right investment signals to make sure the private sector will deliver the infrastructure. We need to keep the lights on and drive prices down. We don’t want to see the early closure of coal fired power stations and we’ve modelled this extensively. In fact, we’ve used Aurora to do the modelling.”
Kean highlighted the fact that four of New South Wales’ five largest coal fired generators are scheduled to close within the next 15 years. The Eraring, Bayswater, Liddell and Vales Point power stations are all set to close by 2035 and will see around 9,000MW of generation capacity removed from the market.
To replace this lost capacity, the NSW government is establishing a number of Renewable Energy Zones, which will see new wind and solar projects coordinated with new transmission network capacity, allowing the coal power stations to be replaced with lower cost and lower emissions energy sources.
Kean added that by taking this approach, the NSW government would be able to avoid the kinds of market interventions being threatened by the Morrison government, which includes a threat to use the government-owned Snowy Hydro to build a new gas generator in the Hunter region.
“This is exactly why we need a roadmap because there were not the right market signals in place, because we didn’t have the right regulatory settings,” Kean added. “Liddell is about to close and the infrastructure required to keep those prices low and keep the system reliable, wasn’t built in time and that’s why minister Tyler has had to intervene directly in the market.”
“We want to avoid such distortions, we want to make sure that we provide a clear roadmap, the clear long term investments signal so that developers can invest with confidence and build the kit that we need to keep the lights on and drive prices down.”
“So, you know, for those people that don’t want more competition and don’t want lower prices, then the public should be questioning exactly why that’s the case. I’m on the side of the public, I’m not on the side of the vested interests who want to drive up prices and make the mums and dads of New South Wales pay for it.”
Taylor had earlier reiterated to the AFR summit that the Morrison government would continue to support the gas sector, and that it wants to see Australia remain a leading user and exporter of fossil gas.
“The role of gas in manufacturing is far broader than is typically acknowledged. It provides direct heat, it is a chemical feedstock, and it plays a pivotal role in the price of electricity,” Taylor told the AFR Summit. “Affordable reliable gas can make a remarkable difference across all three of these areas, whilst at the same time bringing down emissions.
“To demonise gas, as many seek to do, is both irresponsible and intellectually dishonest. The Commonwealth Government is committed to Australia remaining as one of the top liquefied natural gas – LNG – exporters in the world.”
“State-of-the-art subsidence information management system released” The Resources Regulator have completed the establishment of the Standardised Subsidence Information Management System (i.e. SSIMS), a state-of-the-art web-based subsidence information resource. The System comprises a Data Submission Portal, a Subsidence Database and Subsidence Query Facilities.
The primary function of the Data Submission Portal is to ensure the mine operators’ compliance with clause 67(2)(d) of the Work Health and Safety (Mines and Petroleum Sites) Regulation 2014. This clause requires the mine operator of an underground coal mine to ensure that all subsidence monitoring data is provided to the regulator in the manner and form and at the times required by the regulator.
To complete the release of the SSIMS to the underground coal mining industry, the Resources Regulator will provide two training workshops (invite only) on the on-line Query Facilities of the SSIMS on 15 and 16 December 2020. The overall objective of the Query Facilities in the SSIMS is to promote an improved risk-based approach to subsidence management.
By specifying relevant longwall design parameters, the users of the Query Facilities obtain quantifiable likelihood and its associated magnitude of a given subsidence parameter within a defined query range. This approach is new to conventional subsidence engineering. The quantifiable likelihood and its associated magnitude of a given subsidence parameter will lead to improvement to risk management, recovery of coal resources as well as risk-based regulation in relation to subsidence.
The Query Facilities of the SSIMS are supported by the state-of-the-art IT technologies and a substantial Database comprising more than 1.1 million subsidence data points collected from subsidence survey grids above more than 550 extracted longwalls across all Coalfields in NSW”. Refer to www. Resources Regulator (NSW Government) <email@example.com>
NSW green lights 65MW Tamworth Solar Farm and Big Battery Sophie Vorrath, Renew Economy writes:
“The New South Wales government has delivered an early Christmas present to Barnaby Joyce this year, with plans for a new solar farm and big battery in his New England electorate approved for construction on Monday. The NSW department of planning, industry and the environment gave the all clear – with the usual variety of conditions – for the 65MW Tamworth Solar Farm, which is being developed by an outfit of the same name, alongside a 19MW/19MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system.
The project, which is classified as “state significant,” will be developed on agricultural land around 20km west of Tamworth in the New England North West region of NSW. In its notice of decision, the department said the key reasons for granting consent to the project included the range of benefits the solar farm promised to provide for the region, including a capital investment of around $104 million and the creation of more than 200 construction jobs.
The proposed battery energy storage system was also considered a plus, for providing solar energy for dispatch to the National Energy Market and assisting in transitioning the electricity sector from coal and gas fired power stations to renewable energy. Importantly, the energy storage facility would enable the project to store solar energy for dispatch to the grid outside of daylight hours and / or during periods of peak demand, which has the potential to contribute to increased grid stability and energy security,” the department said in its State Significant Development assessment.
Once complete, the solar farm is slated to generate enough electricity to power around 30,000 homes, saving over 131,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. The project will connect to the grid via TransGrid’s transmission line which traverses the site. According to the decision summary, the local Council did not object to the solar farm going ahead, and the project received good support from the community, with just five public submissions, only one of which objected to the project. Not bad considering the documents note there are nine non-associated rural residences within 2km of the site.
The key issues raised in the objection related to impact on prime agricultural farming land, traffic impacts, removal of native vegetation and associated visual impacts and impacts of road generated dust on residents”.
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