MERC Newsletter – September 2018


Delegates, here is the September 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 invited to speak about how Councils can manage wind energy developments more effectively with some excellent examples, with the focus on wind farming and renewable energy generally.

Speakers confirmed to date are:-

  • David Kitto (DPE – Executive Director Resource Assessments & Business Systems), will be presenting in lieu of Mike Young from the DPE;
  • Andrew Bray (National Wind Alliance Coordinator will be speaking on 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”.
  • Upper Lachlan Shire Council General Manager – John Bell;
  • Chris Berry, Director Planning Services, Yass Valley Council (they held their own in house workshop on wind farming earlier this year!).

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.

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 Warwick Giblin to go over the content of the report and to consider the MERC position. Thereafter the working party, without Warwick, met 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 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 working party is awaiting the DPE to advise who is to chair the Steering Committee before the working party convenes. The position from NSW Minerals Council who met on 20th September 2018 is that they accept progress to date with the Roads Calculator methodology, the Schematic for the DA timeline and parties to agree on a mediator (not IPART) upfront which the MERC working party agrees to as well.

Lisa Corbyn Report on the NSW Development Assessment Process

The Lisa Corbyn Report has finally been received after it was completed in August 2017 and delegates will recall Clr Hasler has been requesting its release as a member of the Regional Advisory Forum. At our August meeting one year later, delegates resolved that more stringent steps be taken to have it released using the means the public have to access government information. This approach wasn’t needed as the report arrived beforehand.

The report and the response from the NSW Department of Planning & Environment (DPE) is being analysed by Warwick Giblin & will be submitted to delegates before AGM. Details are outlined on the DPE webpage and can be seen below and accessed by delegates:

Assessment reports independent review

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment commissioned Lisa Corbyn – former head of the NSW Environment Protection Authority and the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water – to conduct an independent review of the Department’s assessment reports for State Significant projects.

Ms Corbyn consulted with a broad range of stakeholders including community groups, industry groups, professional associations, the former Planning Assessment Commission, the NSW Land & Environment Court, the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy, and a number of NSW government agencies and local councils.

Stakeholders were asked to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the Department’s assessment reports, and offer suggestions for improvement. Ms Corbyn made 15 recommendations to strengthen and improve the Department’s assessment reports. The Department accepted all 15 recommendations and implementation of reforms and actions to address them is well underway.

Read the Department’s response                       Read the report

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

 A recent meeting for RIAP was held on 6th September 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 website has been altered to reflect our strategic direction. There is a new part 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. The Executive Officer has submitted a request to members for a nominated person to have access to the log in feature, response to be in by 8th October 2018.

Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

The next meeting of RAF has been set down for 18th October 2018, Clr Hasler will provide an update to our November meetings.

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

We will have our next meeting and a workshop on 8th/9th November 2018 in the Upper Lachlan Shire, at Crookwell, when its warmer.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.

All accomodation 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 accomodation is required out of town: –

Urgent – Please advise the Executive Officer who is attending the meetings in Crookwell 8/9th November 2018 as soon as possible for catering and quorum purposes.

Annual General Meeting – Election of Executive Committee

Giving delegates a “heads up” regarding the Annual General Meeting to be held on 9th November 2018 in Community Hall Crookwell commencing at 9am as it is election time for delegates to vote for nominations for Chair, 2 Deputy Chairs and 3 others as members of the 6 person Executive Committee.

All positions on Executive Committee will be open and subject to nomination. For the information of delegates, if you intend standing for the Executive Committee, the election processes are outlined in the MERC constitution on the web site and the Returning Officer will be the General Manager, Upper Lachlan Shire Council, Mr John Bell. The Executive Officer will be calling for nominations in October as per the constitution. If any potential candidates have any enquiries in regard to the process before the meeting please discuss them with the Executive Officer.

Membership Campaign

The following Councils have been invited to attend the wind farming workshop at Crookwell on 8th November, networking dinner that night plus the meeting next day as observers to see how MERC operates: Inverell, Glen Innes – Severn, Hilltops, Snowy Valleys, Snowy Monaro, Goulburn – Mulwaree, Queanbeyan – Palerang, Yass Valley, Upper Lachlan in view of their wind farming developments.

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 stregthen 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.

Research Fellowship Update

A contact from Wollongong City Council via Cr Tania Brown for the Executive Officer to contact Professor Pascal De Perez has evolved and discussions have taken place on opportunities with the University of Wollongong. A spokesperson (Dr Castilla) will attend the Executive Committee meeting/workshop on 8th November 2018 to discuss MOU, topics, etc.

They seem very interested in the Ph Fellowship program with MERC and already have a relationship with Wollonging City Council and Bathurst City Council in a variety of areas.

 Project Working Party

The Project working party is:- Jason Linnane, General Manager Singleton Council (Chair) the Executive Officer, planning staff that regularly attend MERC meetings in Ron Zwicker, Heather Nicholls, David Henry and Andrew Johns.

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.

Projects update:- members have been requested to complete a “skills survey” on their staff expertise to be compiled as a resource sharing initiative, to be back with the Executive Officer by 8th October 2018. Letters have been sent to the existing panel of consultants that responded to the formal Expression of Interest process in 2014 seeking their response/interest to new criteria that are relevant to members in this day and age for consideration by the working party in early October 2018. Preliminary work has commenced on the current Coal Seam Gas Policy and NSW Gas Plan by the working party.

Presentation to Federal Government House of Representatives Inquiry into the Impacts of Mining on Regional Economies

The submissions from various organisations, businesses and indivduals throughout Australia are on the following site for delegates to follow:

There were 56 submissions, including some confidential, others from Regional Councils and entities throughout Australia.The MERC submission included details on case studies at Gunnedah Shire, Dubbo Regional and Singleton Councils and generally across the state.. Cessnock City Council provided a separate submission which is very detailed and makes some very good arguments specific to their situation as a local government area and Gunnedah attended the Inquiry with Deputy Mayor Cr Gae Swain presenting their submission.

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 equipped 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 cumulative 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.

Revised Voluntary Land Acquisition & Mitigation Policy (VLAMP)

The Revised Voluntary Land Acquisition & Mitigation Policy (VLAMP) is now released and available for viewing on DPE website, details below.

“The NSW Government’s revised Voluntary Land Acquisition and Mitigation Policy (VLAMP) for State Significant Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industry Developments has now been finalised and is available on the Department of Planning and Environment’s website. It applies to:

  • new applications made after the policy has commenced;
  • existing applications that were not yet determined when the policy commenced; and
  • modification applications that involve increases to the approved dust or noise impacts of a development.

The Department has also released a report summarising the feedback received during the public exhibition of the draft revised VLAMP and how this has informed the final version. We would like to thank everyone who shared their feedback and advice during this process”.

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


Over 800,000 renters are closer to benefitting from rooftop solar” From the Department of Planning and Environment site:-“100 residential and commercial tenants taking part in the Clean Energy Knowledge Sharing Initiative will see their annual bills reduce collectively by over $25,000, saving some 130 tonnes of carbon emissions”….. for more details go to the site or see a condensed version below.

“More than 800,000 renters in NSW are a step closer to sharing in the benefits of rooftop solar thanks to a NSW Government initiative backing clean energy projects.  Minister for Resources and Energy Don Harwin said Sun Tenants, a Sydney company that helps renters and property owners enjoy the benefits of solar, has received $33,000 from the NSW Government’s Clean Energy Knowledge Sharing Initiative to install solar panels on 100 residential and commercial rental properties.

“I’m delighted to announce that we are backing Sun Tenants on a pilot project to help people who are renting property join the solar revolution,” said Minister Harwin. “This fantastic project is a real win–win for property investors and tenants and has already been shown to have halved tenants’ energy bills in an earlier pilot scheme. “It’s one of 10 projects we are supporting across the state as part of the NSW Government’s $300,000 Clean Energy Knowledge Sharing Initiative.”

Mr Harwin said “the Government’s investment would leverage an additional $680,000 of private sector investment as well as close to $400,000 project participant and industry–in–kind contributions to help deliver the successful co–funded projects. He said “The NSW Government is also helping 4,500 vulnerable households take control of their energy bills by installing roof top solar under its Home Energy Action Program. “Government relies on strong partnerships with the private sector as part of our transition to a clean, affordable and reliable energy future,” Mr Harwin said.

“The Clean Energy Knowledge Sharing Initiative provides an opportunity for innovators and early adopters to test and trial new clean energy solutions.” Sun Tenants founder Dr Bjorn Sturmberg said the 100 tenants taking part in the project would see their annual bills reduce collectively by more than $25,000. “This pilot will help people save some 130 tonnes of carbon emissions, reducing tenants’ bills and helping property owners increase the value of their investment,” Dr Sturmberg said.

“Sun Tenants incentives owners to install solar by arranging for tenants to pay a little extra rent in exchange for free solar power. Our technology monitors tenants’ solar savings, showing how the savings exceed any increase in rent. “One of the best ways to attract and retain quality tenants is to create shared value, with solar benefiting everyone financially while reducing our impact on the planet.”

Since 2001, there have been 422,662 small solar units installed in NSW, with Census data showing 814,549 renter households state–wide”.

“Barnaby Joyce shines spotlight on where mining wealth goes’ Jamieson Murphy from Northern Daily Leader writes on 4th September 2018.  Mr Joyce’s inquiry in to the relationship between the mining sector and regional businesses was in Tamworth on Tuesday, hearing from local councils and mining companies.  “Every day, dozens of trains burdened with roughly $66-million worth of coal pass through Gunnedah and the Liverpool Plains – New England MP Barnaby Joyce says he wants to see more of that money stay local, rather than being carted off to the capital cities. What is important to me, is the comparative analysis of what is extracted from a district, and the wealth that remains in a district,” Mr Joyce said “There is immense wealth going to other places, and small amounts staying.”

Liverpool Plains Shire mayor Andrew Hope said his council wants to see more of the money generated from the region’s mining sector spent on the “infrastructure pinch points” it created. “The Werris Creek overpass is one of those pinch points, which we’ve got an estimate on the books for $14 million,” Cr Hope said “With trains coming through so often, it cuts off our emergency services, breaks the town in half and it’s about a 40-kilometre round trip to the highway to get around it.”

Mr Joyce said based on evidence heard in the inquiry, the state government made about $6.6m a day in royalties from the region’s mining industry, based on current coal prices. 

“So that Gunnedah overpass is two – day’s worth of royalties.” Mr Joyce said.

Gunnedah Shire deputy mayor Gae Swain told the inquiry she’d like to see a “formalised expectation” with mining companies to contribute to public facilities such as swimming pools and sporting grounds. I think there should be some process where that social and moral responsibility is picked up in to discussions,” Cr Swain said “Large numbers of workers and their families moving in to our shire will lead to further social shortages in facilities such as housing, schooling and childcare.” Refer

“ASIC urges climate details Article in the Industrial Careers News 24th September 2018 states: “ASIC says Australian companies should do more to disclose risks posed by climate change. The regulator says most ASX 100 companies consider the potential risks posed by climate change, but the practice of disclosing these risks to investors is “considerably fragmented, with information provided to the market in differing forms across a wide range of means of disclosure”. ASIC has published a report on climate risk disclosures by 60 companies in the ASX 300, in 25 recent initial public offering (IPO) prospectuses, and across 15,000 annual reports. Of these 60 companies, about 17 per cent identified climate change as a material risk to their business. The percentage of annual reports of all listed companies that contained climate change-related content fell fallen from 22 per cent in 2011 to 14 per cent in 2017.

“Climate change is a foreseeable risk facing many listed companies in the Australian market in a range of different industries,” ASIC commissioner John Price said. “Directors and officers of listed companies need to understand and continually reassess existing and emerging risks (including climate risk) that may affect the company’s business – for better or for worse.”

Some analysts say Australia’s generic risk disclosure laws for companies should apply to climate change. “There’s a difference between what ASIC says the laws say and what companies are doing,” said Will van de Pol from Market Forces. “It’s clear from this report and our financial research that many Australian companies are not meeting their legal requirements. It means that investors are being left in the dark about the risk to the companies that they own from climate change.” Refer

“Schott fires at PM’s plans” Article in the Industrial Careers News 24th September 2018 states: Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott has warned the Morrison government against threats to energy companies. Federal energy minister Angus Taylor and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have threatened to call a royal commission or break up energy companies if prices do not move down soon. But Dr Schott says these measures are not likely to be helpful.

“I think what will happen going forward is that the reliability obligation part of the NEG will probably get support. We’ll have to wait for the rest of it. The sad thing is the drop in prices that would have occurred in the wholesale market will be less than it otherwise would [have been],” she said at a recent Infrastructure Partnerships Australia conference.

“And the other sad thing is that while the national government is in the state that it’s in at the moment, there is a flavour of more market intervention than just stepping back and letting the states and the market get on with it. The next planned Council of Australian Governments Energy Council meeting has been cancelled, and reports say a teleconference version will be held in mid-October. The reliability obligation of the NEG could be signed off at a formal meeting in December”. Dr Schott says.

Although the federal government has scrapped carbon emissions targets in the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), the experts say the reliability obligation will be needed before the closure of AGL Energy’s ageing Liddell Power Station in NSW in 2022. Some states are unhappy that the government is slowing progress.

“We continue to get nothing but chaos and confusion about energy policy in Canberra,” Queensland energy minister Anthony Lynham said. “We are on a national electricity network that requires national leadership. This has gone on for too long.”

Dr Schott says she has spoken with Mr Taylor since his appointment three weeks ago. She said he is focused on the ACCC’s recommendations for the government to buy power from new generation projects to support investment, but “he is quite interested in progressing the reliability obligation” though “not necessarily in its current architecture. We just need to be careful we are not doing anything the market was going to do anyway,” she said.

Refer for further details.

 “Gas sector want climate clarity  Another good article of interest in the Industrial Careers News is this: “The gas industry has become the latest to call on the Federal Government to come up with a climate and energy policy. Gas companies and associated industries says that investors need certainty if Australia wants to take advantage of opportunities for developing new gas and renewables projects. As policymakers seek to tackle the energy trilemma and solve a decade-long failure to effectively integrate energy policy and climate policy, ongoing uncertainly prevails in the market,” APA Group executive of transmission Rob Wheals told a recent industry conference.

“Uncertainty affects investment decisions, and ultimately prices and energy reliability for all Australians. And today we are still here. We still don’t have a national energy policy.”

Gas industry advisers and consultants say the industry is not necessarily in conflict with renewables, especially in regard to the Federal Government’s support for the construction of more coal-fired power stations. “The idea of building new coal-fired power stations is in my mind a backward step,” said analyst Martin Wilkes from RISC, which does consultancy work for companies including Santos.

“I think we need to be looking to close off coal from the power generation mix, and rely on something that will be more reactive, and more in keeping with partnering renewables, which is what gas is.”

Deloitte analysis says Australia will probably not be able to switch from coal straight to renewables. “Gas is by far the cleanest of the fossil fuels and it has critical mass in global demand, so it’s easier to accelerate switching from coal to gas in power stations than directly pick up all that demand with renewables,” Deloitte director of consulting, Alan Samuel, said.


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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