MERC Newsletter – September 2019


Delegates, here is the September 2019 MERC Newsletter sent out on 5th October 2019.This newsletter has a lot of important information and interesting articles 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.


Update on the Voluntary Planning Agreement Steering Committee

Another meeting of the Steering Committee was held on 23 August 2019, to consider the position papers distributed by MERC & NSW Minerals Council on what should be in the Guidelines for VPA’s and put into a VPA framework agreement (including scope and calculation methodologies) and if substantial progress cannot be made, both parties agreed that the future of the Committee should be considered.

It was agreed that NSWMC prepare a draft document to embrace all methodologies and submit to the MERC VPA working party for consideration and to submit back to NSWMC and DPIE by 6th September 2019 for consideration and there is no need for a further meeting of the Steering Committee if agreement can be reached on the Framework paper (which is highly likely).

The MERC VPA working party requested Oz Environmental to cast an eye over the paper and comments have been made on the document by the MERC VPA working party. The final document has now been agreed to by NSWMC & the VPA Working Party after some “to & fro” and has been returned for finalisation of the content to NSWMC and for them tasked with submitting it to Mike Young at the DPIE to sign off and adopt. A copy of the final document should be in the November meeting business papers for delegates’ information.


Resources for Regions (R4R) versus a Royalties for Regions.

In our pursuit of the R4R being chnaged to suit mining affected Councils, MERC working party has been very active.The story so far:

Hon John Barilaro advised he was unable to attend the MERC meeting on 9th August to discuss Resources for Regions reform, however he organised for his Senior Policy Officer (Olivia Graham) and Policy Officer (Alysia Smith) to meet with a delegation from MERC on 9th August 2019 to meet and discuss the current program and alternative approaches to ensure a reasonable return of royalties to invest inregional infrastructure programs.

After a positive hearing from Olivia and Alysia, a further meeting was organised by them for the MERC delegation to meet with Resources NSW staff (Caitlin Sandercock & Jonathon Wheaton – Chris Hangar was unavailable however it was pointed out that these people have been given the responsibility to design a new R4R program under the auspice of senior staffer, Gary Barnes) for an official review of the Resources for Regions program on 23rd August 2019.

The Agenda for the meeting on 23rd August 2019, reflected that the government want to:

  • reset the objectives of the program;
  • review the measures that best determine the extent to which communities are mining impacted (environmental, social & economic);
  • what scope of activity should the program be funding to best deliver on the objectives; and
  • whether it should be fixed funding or competitive tension.

The delegation consisted of Cr Sue Moore, Deputy Chair; Cr Owen Hasler, Executive Committee; Steve Loane and Greg Lamont, Executive Officer who raised the concerns about the need for  the source of funds NOT being tied to a BCR > 1, do away with the co-contribution and $1m limit, establishment of mining affectation criteria other than the current location quotient method, the competitive nature of grant applications versus need, being tied to the Community Strategic Plan, etc. These issues were acknowledged as being in need of reconsideration by the Resources NSW staff

Resources for NSW have engaged UTS Institute of Public Policy to assist with the review and have indicated that the Resources NSW staff will attend our meeting in Gloucester on 8th November 2019 to discuss progress and for further input, if needed. Singleton Council have also had extensive input with the Deputy Premier’s Department staff on their ideas about how a reformed R4R should look as well. So MERC and its members representations are having a major input into how the program will look in the future. They plan to have the new R4R implemented early in 2020.

Resources NSW have chosen MERC to be the primary consultation entity for Local Governmnet on this and the working party has been asked to be involved in a meeting on either 15 or 16th October 2019 (LGNSW Conference period) to discuss the proposed changes to the Resources fro Regions with the focus on how to allocate the funding.

The Resources NSW  staff & UTS will be attending our meeting at Gloucester on 8th November 2019 to go over the changes proposed for Resources for Regions. More later when details are clearer after the October meeting.


Regional Advisory Forum (RAF)

Given the changes to the Planning and Environment portfolios in Cabinet recently (Hon Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning & Public Places) is back in charge of this very important portfolio, consequently, it is not known if RAF will be retained nor is it likely that a further meeting will be held within the next few months.

If it is scrapped, this will mean that a lot of important relevant information that delegate Cr Hasler (Gunnedah Shire Council) regularly relayed to MERC, will not occur, which will be a shame. MERC resolved at its meetings on 8/9th August to write to the Minister Planning & Public Spaces for the retention of the initiatives put in place by the previous management such as RAF requesting its retention and for the inclusion of a MERC delegate at RAF.

There has not been any response from the Minister on whether RAF is to continue and the Executive Officer will contact appropriate DPIE people to follow this up..


Next Meetings of Association for 2019

The next Executive Committee meeting will be on 7th November 2019 at 9am at the former Mid Coast Administration Centre, Gloucester, followed by a mine tour organised by Mid Coast Council from 1pm and the Annual General and Ordinary General Meetings next day on 8th November 2019 at 9am, the Ordinary meeting will be held in the Gloucester RSL Auditorium. Numbers are needed to ensure a quorum and delegates will be pursued on this.

Discussions with Donna Hudson from the MidCoast Council regarding details for accommodation, meetings, mine tour and network dinner have resulted in the establishment of some great arrangements. A tour on the Thursday afternoon is being organised to a coal mine, an old gold mine with bush tucker sampling and a presentation on the recent Rocky Hill mine court case which prevented the mine from operating in a pristine area at the network dinner on Thursday which will be at the Avon Valley Inn, 82 Church St, Gloucester.

For the meetings 7/8th November 2019, the accommodation options are many and varied and all of them can be found on the site or on the MidCoast Council site. Motels in Gloucester:

  • Bucketts Way Motel, 19 Church St, ph 02 65582588,
  • Coppers Hill Motel, 11 Church St, ph 0427589075,
  • Roundabout Inn Motel & Pub, 28 Church St 02 65581816,
  • King St Boutique Motel, 52 King St ph 02 65589020;
  • Gloucester Country Lodge Motel, 4663 92 (2k out on the Buckets Way)

Gloucester Caravan Park end of Denison St at Boundary St, ph 02 65581720, B & B’s, self contained units and riverside cabins are available.

The meeting cycle for 2020 will be determined at the Annual General Meeting. Dates will be confirmed by the Executive in consultation with the host Councils, but by sticking with the pattern of second Thursday/Friday in the aforementioned months is what MERC is working on for your diaries. This fits in with Country Mayors and the member Council meeting cycles.


Membership Campaign

The Association at its May meeting in 2018, 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. If any delegates have any colleagues in Local Government that may be interested in being part of our voice, please contact the Executive Officer.


Speakers for next meetings of MERC

The Executive Officer is finalising the following speakers for the meeting in Gloucester 8th November 2019:

  • Caitlin Sandercock, Jonathon Wheaton & Chris Hangar, Resources NSW, on review of Resources for Regions and the new program details (Confirmed) ;
  • Hon Adam Marshall, Minister for Agriculture & Minister for Western NSW on regional issues;

MERC is awaiting confirmation from 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.

Other relevant Opposition party members and government senior officers will also be pursued for meetings as required depending on locality of the meetings.


Life Membership Updates – Mitchell & Connor

Life membership badge, plaque and certificate will be presented to ex Cr Chris Connor at the November Annual General Meeting in Gloucester on 8th November 2019. Chris and Carolyn will be in attendance Wednesday and Thursday evenings to catch up with delegates. Col has advised he will liaise with the Executive Officer to attend a future meeting when able to in view of his ongoing medical treatments.


Coal Seam Gas Policy

The amended Coal Seam Gas Policy has now been improved with the addition of the double casing minimum and cementing of all bores from the well head (ground) to the production horizon (extraction zone at the bottom of the well) details, however there are still some minor changes to be made in the wording to reflect statutory changes since the policy was first adopted in 2014 and is still not been finalised. Ron Zwicker will cast his planning eye over the content once more beforehand.

Thereafter a copy of the amended policy will be forwarded to delegates for their information and/or consideration.


Research Fellowship Update

In recent discussions with the PhD student, arrangements are being made to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the UTS which will outline details on insurances, performance measures, exit strategies, roles, finances, etc. Peter Dupen and Juan Castilla – Rho addressed delegates at the August meeting on progress with the project, grant options and possible projects. In the meantime, Peter Dupen is canvassing other entities to be involved in the project as sponsors and is seeking other grant options. His latest update of his meetings summary and his commentary is as follows:



Organisation, Reps

Key Outcomes



MERC, presented to full meeting

MERC continue to be keen to support project, but would prefer to reduce sponsorship to $20K if other sponsors can be found.



NSW Minerals Council – Tony ???

Minerals Council unconvinced that the trial process will benefit their members, would like a further briefing with Mike Gallilee once agency support is confirmed.



DoI Water – Liz Rogers, Andrew Garratt

Liz and Andrew were supportive, with Liz suggesting we should also speak to Dept Ag who do a lot of consultation on Strategic Ag Land and might benefit from MFS’s.  Defer to Mitchell Isaacs and DPE for decision on formal support.



DPIE, Mike Young

Mike Young, one of the head people in Planning, agreed that the project was compatible with their efforts to encourage earlier and better stakeholder engagement.  Suggested that we should direct letter seeking support and funding, with 2-pager factsheet, to him to coordinate within DPIE.



Windfarm Commissioner, Clean Energy Council

Mike Young also suggested that we keep options open to doing windfarm proposal instead of mines, much more early-stage projects available.  If Minerals Council don’t provide funding, maybe Clean Energy Council might.  I’m chasing reps of both groups for a project introduction chat.  My main concern about windfarms is that there is a much less obvious benefit available from modelling in their engagement.




Dr Alex King

Alex is the head of policy in DRG, the minerals part of DPIE.  Alex brought two extras with him to meeting, and at first appeared a bit sceptical about engagement and proponents. However, he said by the end that he was happy to support and be involved in the project moving forward.



DoI Water – Mitchell Isaacs

Mitchell was unable to make previous DoI Water briefing, but is a key player so we agreed to give him a separate briefing.  Mitchell heard me out and said that he was supportive, will await a letter and internal consultation with DPE.  Doesn’t think DoI would contribute funds.

“Since we last spoke, my supervisors and I have been concentrating on three tasks:

  1. Progressing the design of the engagement process and an evaluation framework that will guide the monitoring and measurement of it.  A key requirement for the success of the project is that the engagement process is ethical and that all relevant aspects will be appropriately monitored to enable an accurate evaluation of the outcomes and value of the process to be completed. 

In particular, we need to consider what aspects are important to measure (stakeholder confidence and satisfaction with engagement, success in meeting project outcomes, other?) and how we will measure them.  This requires a comprehensive literature review on stakeholder values and evaluation methodologies as the first step, and I have been spending much time on this.

  1. Seeking agency support for the project.  A summary of the meetings that we’ve held and the outcomes are above – this has gone well to date and we’ve had verbal support from the three key sub-agencies.  The next step is to prepare a project fact sheet to accompany a letter to DPIE, where Mike Young has kindly offered to act as the central contact point to formulate a collective agency letter of support.  With the benefit of the letter of support, we will return for another discussion with the Minerals Council.  We are also talking to the Commonwealth Dept of Environment and key windfarm authorities.
  2. Seeking further funding for the project.  The main opportunity identified to date is DPIE, and we will include an appeal for direct and in-kind funding in our letter to them.  We will also repeat our request to the Minerals Council once we understand whether DPIE will contribute.

I’ll send you a copy of our letter and project fact sheet once these are approved.  We would be happy to discuss any of the above points or any other matters that MERC would like to raise at your convenience, and I will provide a further update in a month or so”.

MERC November Executive Committee Elections 8th November 2019

The election for positions on the Executive of MERC will take place on 8th November 2019 and details will be circulated to members shortly. Nominations must be on the prescribed form provided by the Executive Officer. Basically the nominations will be called for no later than 2 weeks and close 1 week, before the election. Nominations are to be seconded by a current delegate signed or emailed an intention to sign plus option of attaching a resume.


Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

Taylor threatens Liddell23rd September 2019, article in Industrial Careers:

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has waved the government’s ‘big stick’ at the Liddell power plant. Mr Taylor says he is keeping close tabs on the ageing coal-fired power station in NSW, to see if its closure by 2023 affects electricity supply or cause price spikes.

Mr Taylor says the government’s so-called ‘big stick’ legislation – which threatens to break up power companies that are found to be raising prices unfairly – could be put into play. “If there is not either extension or like-for-like replacement this will be unacceptable, because you will see upward pressure on prices and a loss of reliability,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

In the same interview, he also shrugged off calls from hundreds of thousands of protesters for stronger climate action. Mr Taylor said the nation is on track to cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris target of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. “This has to be globally coordinated action and Australia needs to do its bit, and we are,” Mr Taylor said. Refer for further details.


“Victoria goes for gold” 23rd September in Industrial Careers, article:

The Victorian Government will apply a 2.75 per cent gold royalty from 2020.The state says mines will remain profitable when it removes the exemption of gold from existing royalties.

It says the benefits from gold production have not been shared fairly among all Victorians, and with prices at an all-time high and advances in mining technology, it wants a cut. The royalties will not apply to the first 2,500 ounces of gold produced by smaller producers each year.

Minerals Council of Australia Victoria executive director James Sorahan described it as a “reckless decision” for a “poorly-considered gold royalty.” “There is a serious risk that mines will close early and regional development will be handicapped through less investment,” Mr Sorahan said in a statement.

“The projected $16 million in revenue per annum from the gold royalty compares to over $300 million spent in Victoria by gold miners in 2018 on wages, goods and services, taxes and community grants. The closure of just one mine would wipe out the entire benefit of the royalty revenue.”

The Victorian minerals industry has proposed an exploration offset to encourage more exploration, to create more profitable royalty-paying mines. “Victoria’s gold industry has unique characteristics which require a more considered approach to the implementation of a gold royalty,” Mr Sorahan said. “The government needs to start again by listening to industry on the gold royalty to create incentives to encourage exploration and maximise mine life.” Refer for further details.


United Nations issues warming” 25th September 2019, Industrial Careers article:

There is a glaring and growing gap between global warming targets and reality. A report by the science advisory group of the UN’s Climate Action Summit 2019 says global temperatures since 2015 are on track to be the hottest on record for any five-year period.

However, current global commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions will likely lead to a global temperature rise of between 2.9°C and 3.4°C by the end of the century, the report finds. To actually limit warming to 2°C, countries will need to commit to emissions reductions that are triple their current commitments. If the world is to limit warming to 1.5°C, those commitments need to be five times greater.

But the experts say it is not too late. It is technically still feasible to bridge this gap, but global ambitions must be increased urgently and backed up by immediate action. It calls for fundamental socio-economic transformation in key sectors such as land use and energy.

The report aims to present a “transparent envelope” of authoritative and actionable cutting-edge science. Levels of the main long-lived greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4)) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have reached new highs.

The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained 400 parts per million CO2 was about 3-5 million years ago, when global mean surface temperatures were 2-3°C warmer than today, ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica melted, parts of East Antarctica ice had retreated, all causing global see level rise of 10-20m compared with today.

In 2018, global CO2 concentration was 407.8 parts per million (ppm), 2.2 ppm higher than 2017. Preliminary data from a subset of greenhouse gas monitoring sites for 2019 indicate that CO2 concentrations are on track to reach or even exceed 410 parts per million (ppm) by the end of 2019.

The report assesses the latest scientific studies on current and estimated future greenhouse gas emissions; they compare these with the emission levels permissible for the world to progress on a least-cost pathway to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

This difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” is known as the emissions gap. Global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030, let alone by 2020, if current climate policies and ambition levels of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are maintained.

Preliminary findings from the Emissions Gap Report 2019 indicate that greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in 2018. The evidence continues to reinforce human influence as the dominant cause of changes to the Earth system, in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.

Growing climate impacts increase the risks of crossing critical tipping points. These refer to thresholds that, if crossed, lead to far-reaching, in some cases abrupt and/or irreversible changes. The report is accessible here.


“Clean Energy Open Day” Clean Energy Council reports that “On Sunday 27 October, 16 clean energy projects from five states will be throwing open their gates to the public for a range of fun and informative open day events. Australia is transitioning towards a renewable energy future and the possibility of a new golden age for energy. So far in 2019 construction in the industry represents approximately $27 billion in investment and brought over 16,656 jobs to rural and regional communities throughout Australia.

Clean Energy Open day is a great opportunity to get up close to the future of Australia’s clean power generation. Wind and solar farms will be opening their gates in NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. Check out the list of projects hosting events below. Projects in NSW are:

Broken Hill Solar Plant, Barrier Highway, Broken Hill. 9am – 3pm. AGL, as part of its Powering Australia Renewables Fund, is hosting a community open day at the 53 MW Broken Hill Solar Plant. The community open day will be kick off at 9.00am and include activities for kids and a live broadcast from local radio station 2Dry FM. AGL staff members will be on hand to talk about how the solar plant works and answer any technical questions. The day provides the perfect opportunity for people to learn more about renewable energy in their local community. To find out more about Broken Hill Solar Plant visit their website.

Neoens’ Dubbo Solar Hub, 20L Sheraton Rd, Dubbo 10.00am – 2.00pm. Dubbo Solar Hub, which consists of two solar farms has been in operation since June 2018. Jointly they generate around 61,000 MWh of renewable energy each year, enough to power around 9,000 homes. The South Keswick Solar Farm is located on the outskirts of Dubbo and produces 2/3 of the Dubbo Hub’s electricity production. The site has 56,160 solar panels and connects to the Essential Energy network. The solar farm also successfully combines electricity generation with agriculture. There are currently over 150 merino sheep grazing among the panels. For more information about Neoen’s Dubbo Solar Hub visit their website.

Gullen Range Wind and Solar Farm Tour pick up from Crookwell Motel, 101 Goulburn Ln, Crookwell NSW 2583.Tour departs at 11am. What’s happening on the day: Gullen Range Wind and Solar Farm is hosting a special public tour to celebrate the 2019 Clean Energy Council Open Day! The tour is now booked out, to join the waitlist for a spot, please visit their website. Please note that advance bookings on the tour bus are essential. The public cannot self-drive to Gullen Range Wind and Solar Farm for safety reasons.

Further detail are at :



Clr Peter Shinton (Chair) 0268492000 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,

Comments are closed.