MERC Newsletter – October 2018


Delegates, here is the October 2018 MERC Newsletter, albeit later than usual due to the meetings and wind farming workshop held in Crookwell 7/9th November and travel time spent by the author to get to/from the lovely Upper Lachlan Shire Council area from Tamworth.

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 was held on Thursday 8th November 2018 in Crookwell,  commencing at 1.00pm to 4.35pm, with a variety of speakers from Councils, Government etc invited to speak about how Councils can better manage wind energy developments more effectively with some excellent examples. It was well received by all in attendance.

The speakers were (in order):-

  • Andrew Bray (National Wind Alliance Coordinator) who addressed delegates on the work of the Alliance, discussed his report Building Stronger Communities: Wind’s growing role in Regional Australia (where the focus is on the industry’s relationship with the broader community, it does include some discussion of benefits for Councils, Section 355 committees and VPAs. He says “Councils and wind developers have reached a fairly common understanding of what wind farm VPAs look like these days”), he also spoke about the Best Practice Charter for Renewable Energy Developments provided by the Clean Energy Council which he recommended Councils obtain and experiences.
  • Charlie Prell, former Councillor Upper Lachlan Shire Council, an associate of the Australian Wind Alliance, a local farmer outlined his experiences with wind turbines near his property and the benefits and issues associated with Councils and the community dealing with them;
  • Chris Berry, Director Planning Services, Yass Valley Council (they held their own in house workshop on wind farming earlier this year), he is a member of the Canberra Joint Organisation of Councils (representing professional planners in the region) and the DPE Regional Advisory Forum, spoke on the Yass Valley Councils experience with Windfarms – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly he called his paper;
  • John Bell, Upper Lachlan Shire Council General Manager, spoke on the Councils wind farming development experiences, benefits and pitfalls;
  • In the absence of David Kitto (DPE – Executive Director Resource Assessments & Business Systems), Phillipa Duncan (Team Leader development Assessments) and accompanied by Anna Ferguson (Policy Officer) from the DPE, provided an update on planning matters and unfortunately whilst Phillipa did a great job, she was not sufficiently informed at a higher level to answer some of the issues delegates raised that David would have been able to, which was disappointing
  • Finally, Dr Juan Castilla- Pho, University of Wollongong, PhD, MEngSc, BEng (Hons) & Research Fellow, briefly spoke on the Participatory Systems Collaborative Modelling approach they had developed which could be used to better manage conflict in a community when a State Significant or other mining or renewable development such as a wind or solar farm or mine is approved by the NSW Government and there is community concern. He elaborated on the model to delegates the next day who were very impressed with the concept and resolved that the Executive Committee pursue it.

John Bell (General Manager, Upper Lachlan Shire Council), Andrew Warren (Tourism Manager) and staff of Upper Lachlan Shire Council, Crookwell provided a lot of assistance which contributed to the success of the workshop and meetings. Hopefully they will become members of MERC in due course. Where provided, copies of the presentations will be distributed to delegates.

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

The working party (Cr Sue Moore, Cr Owen Hasler, Steve Loane and Greg Lamont) met on 22nd August 2018 in Sydney with the DPE (Alison Frame, Felicity Greenway and Steven Barry and the NSW Minerals Council (Steve Galliee and Claire Doherty) for an hour to discuss areas of agreement and the way forward. The meeting was very constructive.

The aim of the steering committee is to go over the areas not in agreement and determine a path forward to get agreement, so the Guidelines can be finalised and adopted by delegates at our Annual General Meeting in November 2018. NSW Minerals Council are also keen to have these Guidelines finalised as soon as possible but needed agreement of the issues confirmed (DA Schematic, Roads Calculator and need for a dispute resolution provision determined up front) to take back to their Executive on 20th September 2018 to justify their investment in the project and any further involvement.

Current position is that the DPE have confirmed that Stephen Free will chair the Steering Committee and it is hoped a meeting will be held before the end of the year (depending on Chair) to establish protocols, etc.The profiles for candidates as Chair were as follows:

The NSWMC and MERC working parties were canvassed and MERC chose Stern, Free, Mitchelmore in that order, NSWMC went the other way Mitchelmore, Free and Stern, so the DPE compromised and chose Free, the middle choice for both, ……….democracy in action!

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

The last meeting for RIAP was held on 6th September 2018 where 35 projects have been received for consideration with $190m value of projects for shortlisting, to allocate $50m against the new criteria. A shortlist has been agreed on and awaiting clarification of some projects by Infrastructure NSW before RIAP is called for a meeting again for the adoption of a final list of approved projects to be considered by Cabinet later in the year.

Those that were good mining related projects but not shortlisted for not meeting the criteria despite the changes to the criteria, are going to be directed towards other funding programs if eligible and there were other projects that were simply not eligible and missed out altogether. The Executive Officer is awaiting the email for the setting of the next meeting, hopefully this occurs before Christmas for round 6.


There is a new part on website where only delegates can access minutes by a “log in” feature with the Executive Officer to canvass members to nominate a person from each Council to do this, if needed, there are still a few Councils that have not yet responded so the Executive Officer will proceed to set up the registration with the website manager.

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.

Next Meetings of Association for 2019

At this stage, we will have our next meetings in Sydney in February and August, then Forbes in May and hopefully MidCoast (Taree, Forster or Gloucester?, the Executive Officer to talk with the Deputy Mayor who is the delegate to MERC) are interested for November 2019, as new members, if not members will be canvassed for their interest in hosting.

Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in due course, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months and bookings at Parliament House put aside Thursday 7th (for Executive Committee) and Friday 8th February 2019 as next meeting dates in Sydney.

Annual General Meeting – Election of Executive Committee, Chair and Deputy Chairs

The results of the MERC Executive Committee elections held on 9th November 2018 were: –

  • Chair – Cr Peter Shinton, Warrumbungle Shire Council, elected unopposed as Chair;
  • Deputy Chairs – there were three nominations for the two Deputy Chair positions and elected were Cr Sue Moore, Singleton Council and Cr Lilliane Brady OAM, Cobar Shire Council with Cr James Nolan, Broken Hill City Council, missing out;
  • Executive Committee – there were three nominations for the Executive Committee to fill the three positions resulting in the election of Cr James Nolan, Cr Melanie Dagg (Cessnock City Council) and Cr Owen Hasler (Gunnedah Shire Council). Cr Michael Banasik (Wollondilly Shire Council), due to work commitments in 2018/19, did not stand for the Executive Committee.

Membership Campaign

Queanbeyan – Palerang, Yass Valley and Upper Lachlan Shire Councils attended the wind farming workshop in view of their wind farming developments. They were all going back to report to their Councils on the merits of joining MERC and it is hoped they do. Still awaiting Balranald and Narrandera Shire Councils and some of the invited workshop wind farming Councils, to respond.

The Executive Officer is to approach Country Mayors Association to present to them and send the current proposal pro forma to delegates to review and provide input and suggestions to the Executive Officer on the content, to entice interest.

In discussions with prominent people in Local Government, the critical points of difference and selling points of our Association are that:

  • MERC is specific on its issues;
  • MERC has seen there is a need to be the voice for energy for Councils;
  • MERC is not hampered by getting involved with the broader whole of state matters;
  • MERC already has a seat at the table – its advice is sought by the government;
  • MERC have experienced delegates on government working groups representing the members voices;
  • MERC 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 and Joint Organisations of Councils 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.

Membership discussions will be pursued with Mayors of Muswellbrook and Lake Macquarie Councils by the Executive as well.

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 extremly impressed and can see its application in all forms of consultation with the community and have resolved that the Execuitive 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. More later.

Project Working Party

The working party is working with the Executive Officer and Chair to review the current MERC CSG Policy in relation to the NSW Gas 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 excellent preliminary work on the projects already. Thanks Ron.

Project updates:-

Skills Matrix – Still have some Councils to complete a “skills survey” on their staff expertise to be compiled as a resource sharing iniitiative, only 12 received to date, balance to be followed up by Executive Officer;

Environmental Consultants Panel – Letters have been sent to the existing panel of consultants that responded to the formal Expression of Interest process in 2014/15 seeking their response/interest to new criteria that are relevant to members in this day and age, list completed and being assessed by the working party for report to delegates in February.

CSG Policy Review – Preliminary work has commenced on the current Coal Seam Gas Policy and NSW Gas Plan by the working party for report to the February meeting.

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

 The recent Federal Government House of Representatives Inquiry into the Impacts of Mining on Regional Economies was conducted and delegates briefly discussed the submissions Details from all states of Australia can be seen on the link here

There were 56 submissions, including some confidential, others from Regional Councils and entities throughout Australia. The main issues raised consistently in all submissions from the non miners were:- global/corporate procurement; cashflow terms of payment; lack of opportunities for local businesses and local people (if they not already trained and equiped to get jobs and contracts) to be assisted/educated to be potential contractors and employees in order to keep the towns and villages vibrant and occupied; changes to the Royalties for Regions program – put the money back into the regional infrastructure; analysis of the cumultative effects of mining on communities and businesses; better use of TAFE/local schools to train youth to work locally so they remain in the regions so towns don’t die, etc.

There were a lot of excellent recommendations and it will be interesting to see where this Inquiry goes and what it does with them.

Runaway BHP train deliberately derailedInteresting event reported in the news recently about alleged deliberate train derailment, is this a consequence of mechanisation?

See link here

“Green Bank seeks new vehicles” In the SMH, 1ST November 2018, Peter Hannam reports that the nations green investment bank will expand more into pumped hydro and industries such as agriculture and electric vehicles as the surge into renewable energy starts to subside.

This comes about as the banks or firms are becoming more willing to invest in renewables on their own causing a reduction in demand from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (which was set up by the Gillard government and survived the Abbott governments move to have it abolished and the Turnbull governments push to ease the lending constraints it imposed on lenders). Refer

“No relief ahead as prices rise”  Cole Latimer writes in the SMH, 31st October 2018 that households and businesses face growing uncertainty over obtaining energy bill relief as wholesale power costs rose by as much as 26% because of the drought, gas prices and policy uncertainty.

Grattan Institute energy director Tony Wood said a number of factors were driving the wholesale price increase since the start of October “Gas is the biggest issue, as its rising price has also set the price for the market” he told the SMH. Mr Wood also said the Australian Energy Market Operator was also concerned about lower water levels in NSW dams that service the Snowy Hydro project. He said “You also have the issue that coal fired power stations have been less reliable”

Rating House Moody’s Investor Service said ongoing policy uncertainty and government threats directed at the energy sector has hindered future investment in the renewables market, which added to higher prices. “the lack of a stable and aligned policy ….is a hindrance to investment” Moody’s said. “As policy changes could affect energy prices, consumers have shown reluctance in entering into the long term, fixed price power purchase agreements (PPA’s) typically used to fund new renewable projects” Refer

‘Make it happen” In the Hunter Valley Coal Face October – November edition, Cr Sue Moore, Mayor Singleton Council writes “ If the State Government’s premise for the Resources for Regions is indeed to deliver local infrastructure to support mining communities, then it will be impossible to ignore Singleton Council’s applications under the current round” They are seeking half of the cost of two projects with a combined total of $13m plus to upgrade the Singleton CBD and transport routes to get 9,000 workers living outside the Council area and business to/from the 17 mines in the LGA safely.

“There can be no value put on the peace of mind for worker’s families that will come from knowing the roads their loved ones are driving on are the best possible standard. Because, more important than the route to work, is the drive home to the family again” Cr Moore said. Further details can be found at


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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