Mining related councils get expertise equipped

Local Government representatives from throughout NSW converged on the State Government’s Country Embassy in the heart of Sydney’s CBD late last week for what was considered a highly productive Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) meeting. The Hon. John Barilaro, NSW Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Skills, and Minister for Small Business, as well as the Hon. Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning both attended the meeting.

Cabonne Shire Association of Mining Related Councils delegates, Heather Nicholls and Cr Sharon Wilcox, with Chair Cr Peter Shinton (right), consider a point being made by AMRC CEO Don Tydd.

Cabonne Shire Association of Mining Related Councils delegates, Heather Nicholls and Cr Sharon Wilcox, with Chair Cr Peter Shinton (right), consider a point being made by AMRC CEO Don Tydd.

Council delegates appreciated the opportunity to hear presentations from and asked questions of the two Ministers. It was a two-way street. The delegates heard the latest policy developments and also told the Ministers of issues they are facing, at the coal-face of mining impacts.

Delegates were informed of how, in line with the Association’s strategic plan to equip member councils with know-how resourcing, they now have access to a high-level expert panel of consultants. The Association Chair, Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council, Cr Peter Shinton explained what the initiative has involved. “We advertised for an ‘Expert Panel’ and were pleased to see 43 expressions of interest. They were extremely diverse in size, location and specialisations. Our Executive members interviewed the shortlisted six to select our final four.”

Issues focused at the recent meeting... Association of Mining Related Councils Chair Cr. Peter Shinton, Deputy Chair Cr. Chris Connor and Executive Member Cr. John Martin.

Issues focused at the recent meeting… Association of Mining Related Councils Chair Cr. Peter Shinton, Deputy Chair Cr. Chris Connor and Executive Member Cr. John Martin.

“This panel will be used whenever the Association or member Councils need expert advice on issues in areas such as planning, environmental assessment, water quality and Aboriginal heritage.” The Warrumbungle Shire Mayor knows from experience how formidable mining related issues and paperwork can be. “When our Council had to assess the application for the Cobbora Coal mine project, it was a massive amount of work and our council’s staff were not experts, with the capacity to challenge the environmental assessment.”

“One of the firms which we selected for empanelment actually offered to put some of their senior people into a council that engages them, to help up-skill the council’s planners. A lot of the environmental assessment material that comes through is considerable in quantity and complexity. You cannot expect council staff to always have the expertise to address every issue, particularly where mining related matters are concerned.”
In the recent past, the Association has produced issues papers in relation to Coal Seam Gas, coal mining and Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs). Wollongong City Council’s Special Projects Manager spent a great deal of time on the issue of VPAs for the Association. Our new Expert Panel will see us better equipped to achieve optimal outcomes, without being a drain on Council members’ resources.

Ready access to the independent expert consultancies on our panel will greatly bolster the collective expertise of Local Councils within the Association of Mining Related Councils. “The Expert Panel” is the latest constructive outcome that the AMRC has delivered, beyond advocating, as the peak Local Government representative body in NSW on mining impacts,” Cr. Shinton said.

Cabonne Shire Council (in the State’s Central west) will host the Association’s next meeting, which is to be held on Friday 13 November, 2015.

Download Media Release: Mining related councils get expertise equipped (pdf)

Planning to get mining affected communities a better deal

When a new mining operation is established, a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) can be negotiated between a local council and a mine operator, which can see the mining company contribute millions of dollars annually towards the council’s infrastructure costs. The negotiation process has been a daunting, unstructured challenge for the regional councils of NSW. That is set to change; the Association of Mining Related Councils has been working with the Department of Planning and Environment to help councils to get a better deal for their communities by documenting comprehensive guidelines for the process.

AMRC Chair Cr. Peter Shinton, Senior NSW Department of Planning and Environment Staff Alison Frame and Meagan Kanaley, with AMRC CEO Don Tydd.

AMRC Chair Cr. Peter Shinton, Senior NSW Department of Planning and Environment Staff Alison Frame and Meagan Kanaley, with AMRC CEO Don Tydd.

The draft Planning Agreement Guidelines for State Significant Mining Projects will be issued in the near future for public comment. “The State Government welcomes and appreciates the input from groups such as the Association of Mining Related Councils to date,” Deputy Secretary – Policy and Strategy at the Department, Alison Frame said.
“The guidelines will outline best practice principles and help to build an understanding about the negotiation process in the context of mining assessment. In particular, the guidelines will assist councils and industry in understanding the steps involved in negotiating a planning agreement.”

State and Local Governments consider Planning Agreements to be an integral part of the planning system in NSW and an important tool in mitigating community concerns about the impacts of a development. “Planning agreements provide a way for councils and mining companies to negotiate flexible outcomes in respect of development contributions.

Because of this, planning agreements can, in certain situations, deliver better outcomes for both mining companies and the community through the delivery of public benefit,” Ms Frame said.

The Association Chair, Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council, Cr Peter Shinton said that negotiating VPAs has been overwhelming for many small, regional councils in the past and it will be a positive step forward when they do not have to reinvent the wheel, if approaching the Planning Agreement process for the first time. “This is
something we lobbied the NSW Government to do and we commend them for building this framework with genuine consultation.”

“With no structure existing, a VPA was difficult to negotiate and delivered uncertain outcomes. If you were lucky you got a good one, if you weren’t, you didn’t. In the Warrumbungle Shire, we worked towards a VPA with a mine that has now been mothballed. We certainly could have done better. I am confident that the new guidelines will facilitate the best possible outcomes from Planning Agreements into the future.”

“These VPAs can be multi-million dollar deals and a council needs to factor in all they can in regards to the impacts the mining operations and the people the mine brings in will have.”

“The planners in the Department now have consulted with us and come back with a first-draft. I was amazed with what they have achieved.”

“Normally, once a VPA has been struck, it is for the life of the mine,” said Cr. Shinton. “You also need to plan for economic and social impacts of a mine closure. If workers have lived in the area for 20-25 years and they disappear suddenly, you’ve got a raft of challenges to deal with, like a big drop in real estate values, which also reduces a council’s revenue,” Cr. Shinton said.

Senior Planning NSW staff updated the Association on their guidelines for Planning Agreements at its last meeting in Quirindi. The next meeting, on Thursday 13 August, in Sydney, will be addressed by NSW Planning Minister, the Hon. Rob Stokes.

For further information, contact AMRC Chair (and Warrumbungle Shire Mayor) Cr Peter Shinton: 0428 255 420 Or Chief Executive Officer, Don Tydd: 02 6775 3844 or 0418 681 320.

Download Media Release: Planning to get mining affected communities a better deal (pdf)

Mining related councils hit hot topics in Liverpool Plains

When the Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) met in Quirindi recently, delegates from member councils around the State took the opportunity to tour contentious sites in the Liverpool Plains Shire. They visited the site of the proposed BHP Billiton Caroona coal mine, which farmers claim would impact on water in one of Australia’s richest agricultural districts. They also visited Whitehaven’s Werris Creek Coal mine, where the principal concern has been reverberations of blasting in nearby Werris Creek. The following day saw a productive meeting, with numerous issues address.

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BHP Billiton Snr Manager, Corporate Affairs Andrew Garrett, Association of Mining Related Councils’ CEO Don Tydd and Chair Cr. Peter Shinton, with BHP Billiton Caroona Coal Project Manager Mick Lovely, in front of the ridge where the proposed controversial Caroona coal mine would be established.

“This was a good opportunity for us to network with other councils with mining operations right on their doorstep,” said Liverpool Plains Shire Mayor Cr Andrew Hope. “We have many mining royalties and infrastructure issues, which we need this Association to represent our concerns straight to the State Government,” he said. “I’ve seen us make headway through mining debates.”

The Association Chair, Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council, Cr Peter Shinton said that IPART (the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) will be conducting a comprehensive review of local government rating legislation. “The Association will be asking IPART to ensure its terms of reference encompass the rating of mine operations. We saw this issue have a major financial impact on Broken Hill Shire Council,” he said.

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AMRC Chair Peter Shinton, Werris Creek Coal Mine Manager Jeremy Taylor and AMRC CEO Don Tydd, with the open-cut mine below them.

Following a motion by Narrabri Shire Council delegate Cr. Catherine Collyer, the Association moved to lobby the NSW Government to honour its pre-election promise relating to dust monitoring at the large-scale Maules Creek mine development. Gunnedah Shire Mayor Owen Hassler reiterated Cr. Collyer’s statement that people need to be able to have more trust and faith in their Governments, adding that NSW needs to be proactive, not reactive when it comes to dust. “

AMRC members were updated on their progress in building an information database and panel resource. Association CEO Don Tydd told the meeting that responses had come in from 43 consultancies, from small to multi-national. “There is days of reading in the responses. The extent of the interest we received speaks volumes about the knowledge base relating to mining impacts and the growing standing of this Association,” he said. Chair Peter Shinton said that the Association has called for action on Voluntary Planning Agreements and was delighted to see two senior staff from Planning NSW give a presentation on a position paper concerning Planning Agreements at the meeting. “These agreements can involve ongoing multi-million dollar deals between a mine and local government towards redressing infrastructure impacts. It is fantastic that Planning NSW took our input on board, toward producing guidelines that will help councils negotiating these deals in regards to new mines, in the future.”

Download Media Release: Mining related councils hit hot topics in Liverpool Plains (pdf).

NSW Mining affected councils continue Government inquiry call

The Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) has continued its pre-election appeal to the NSW Government for an in-depth mining impact analysis. Association Chair and Warrumbungle Shire Mayor Peter Shinton said that it is time that Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Anthony Roberts got genuinely resourced with grassroots mining impacts knowledge and stopped being reactionary with mining related policies.

Blayney Shire Council General Manager Rebecca Ryan and Mayor Scott Ferguson, Western Research Institute CEO Danielle Ranshaw with her Cadia mine impacts report in hand, Association of Mining Related Councils Chair Cr. Peter Shinton, Cabonne Shire Councillor Sharon Wilcox and CEO of the Association Don Tydd.

Blayney Shire Council General Manager Rebecca Ryan and Mayor Scott Ferguson, Western Research Institute CEO Danielle Ranshaw with her Cadia mine impacts report in hand, Association of Mining Related Councils Chair Cr. Peter Shinton, Cabonne Shire Councillor Sharon Wilcox and CEO of the Association Don Tydd.

“We have seen the benefits of a holistic inquiry into infrastructure and social impacts mining has on a community through a study undertaken by the Western Research Institute for Newcrest Mining Limited, Cadia Valley Operations. This comprehensive study looked at both mining impacts and the implications for the regional city of Orange and other nearby centres, if the Cadia gold mine was to shut down. Just as councils deserve a better return from the mining royalties the State Government extracts from their areas, they should also have all the information possible to best manage mining impacts, including the massive adjustments that come with a mine closure,” Cr. Shinton said.

“Any council would benefit from this level of awareness, particularly when negotiating Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPA’s). We need the NSW Government to lay the foundations for local studies, with a comprehensive inquiry.”

“Mining communities need to keep monitoring their health, strengths, weaknesses and changes that occur in the community and its economy, as the result of mining. This can be done with a large study like what was done for Cadia but there can also be advantages from regular monitoring on a smaller scale, following solid foundation analysis. Ongoing engagement with the local business community, service providers, people involved in the housing sector can also be important in both gauging and informing about mining impacts. This regular monitoring and community liaison can help local councils and mining operations to be aware of mining impacts and ensure the best possible means of addressing them are in place,” said Western Research Institute CEO Danielle Ranshaw.

In a presentation to the Association of Mining Related Councils, Ms Ranshaw outlined what the report “Economic, social & community impacts of Cadia Valley operations” entailed, together with the outcomes and conclusions from it. The in-depth study saw the mining operation identify needs and voluntarily make additional investments into the local community.” A mining company can only benefit from comprehensive awareness and community engagement. Just like governments, if mine operators understand their impacts they can tailor or implement strategies to ensure the community thrives whilst the mine is there and post-mining.”

Cr Shinton said that the Cadia study at Orange set an excellent benchmark and applauded the mining operation for commissioning it. “The benefits of this kind of study are clear. We cannot expect such an initiative to be undertaken by all mine operators across NSW and councils do not have the resources – the State Government does and it is time we saw long, as well as short-term mining policy underpinned by real consultation, investigation and analysis.”

Download Media Release – NSW Mining affected councils continue Government inquiry call (pdf)

NSW Mining affected councils demand inquiry

The Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) has called for a pre-election commitment on mining impact analysis from the Coalition and Labor. It has made in-person requests for an urgent inquiry into mining impacts, to both the Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Anthony Roberts and Shadow Minister for Regional Infrastructure and Services; Regional and Rural Affairs, and Western NSW, the Hon. Mick Veitch MLC.

Enquiry called for.. and Association of Mining Related Councils Chair, Cr. Peter Shinton is waiting for a response from the Coalition and Labor.

inquiry called for.. and Association of Mining Related Councils Chair, Cr. Peter Shinton is waiting for a response from the Coalition and Labor.

AMRC CEO Don Tydd explained that areas of concern common to mining affected local government areas in NSW were discussed. “With the revenue that the NSW Government collects through mining exploration licenses and royalties, AMRC member councils feel that the State has the resources and the responsibility to better assist councils,” he said.

The Association Chair, Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council, Cr Peter Shinton commended Wollongong Lord Mayor and AMRC delegate, Cr. Gordon Bradbury for his comprehensive demands, put to both sides of government at the last AMRC meeting.

“A review into the socio-economic impacts of mining and exploration, from coal to coal seam gas must be undertaken as a matter of urgency, by an independent expert or a panel with appropriate expertise. This inquiry should draw on the experience of local government areas already affected by mining, to better equip them and the NSW Government for socio-economic assessments, into the future,” said Cr. Shinton. “It is time that NSW saw more than reactionary policies and data presented to validate policy positions.”

“Our request to both parties stated that the scope of an inquiry should comprehensively identify the full range of mining and gas extraction socio-economic impacts on local government in NSW. Existing sources (and shortfalls) of funding available to councils to address infrastructure and service needs should be outlined. It would identify what tools and opportunities councils possess or should have to manage the challenges they face as a result of mining; these include regional demographic, equity and political issues, infrastructure costs and priorities.”

“As part of being a pro-active resource for the future, this inquiry must identify what tools and opportunities councils have to contend with the triple bottom line impacts of mine closures. The focus is often on environmental rehabilitation but a mine closure has social impacts and also leaves a very big hole in a local economy.”

Shadow Minister Mick Veitch and Minister Anthony Roberts, made consecutive presentations to the AMRC at the Association's recent meeting.

Shadow Minister Mick Veitch and Minister Anthony Roberts, made consecutive presentations to the AMRC at the Association’s recent meeting.

“The Association asserts that there needs to be a review of the delineation between State and Local Government jurisdictions in terms of the charges, planning, infrastructure and associated issues connected to the management of mining. The inquiry should also review the future viability and use of approaches currently available to councils to regulate, manage and tax mining related activities and to fund infrastructure and service delivery, such as Resources for Regions, Conditions of Consent and Section 94 contributions,” continued Cr. Shinton. “We would expect such an inquiry to deliver new regulatory mechanisms or legislative change and identify new funding avenues for mining related councils, as a result of this line of investigation.”

Mr Tydd said that delegates from the Association’s 23 member councils from across NSW appreciated the Minister and Shadow Minister taking the time to address their recent meeting but now hope to see some real commitments before and after the election regarding this proposed inquiry.”

Download Media Release – NSW Mining affected councils demand inquiry (pdf)

Mining related councils get pre-election pitches

The recent meeting of the Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) in Sydney, heard from both, the Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Anthony Roberts and Shadow Minister for Regional Infrastructure and Services; Regional and Rural Affairs, and Western NSW, the Hon. Mick Veitch MLC.

Singing from the same Hymn Sheet?... Association of Mining Related Councils Chair, Cr. Peter Shinton, flanked by Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Anthony Roberts and the Hon. Mick Veitch MLC, who has a range of rural and regional portfolios in the Shadow Ministry.

Singing from the same Hymn Sheet?… Association of Mining Related Councils Chair, Cr. Peter Shinton, flanked by Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Anthony Roberts and the Hon. Mick Veitch MLC, who has a range of rural and regional portfolios in the Shadow Ministry.

 

The Association Chair, Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council, Cr Peter Shinton applauded both sides of Government for coming to speak and listen to the representatives of mining affected communities across NSW. “It is important that the Government hears first-hand, the challenges that local councils face as a result of mining and that we provide input into policy development.”

The AMRC has campaigned for a Royalties for Regions scheme, where mining impacted communities would see a percentage of the mining royalties which go into State Government coffers. In recent years, the NSW Government has promoted its Resources for Regions program as an appropriate way of giving back. The AMRC has raised concerns that despite limited council eligibility and specific funding application criteria, the State Government has used Resources for Regions to fund infrastructure which is (ordinarily) the responsibility of the Government, instead of providing additional benefits to communities enduring mining impacts. The $6.5mil Muswellbrook Hospital Emergency Department upgrade was cited as an example by Cessnock City Councillor Jeff Maybury.
“There doesn’t seem to be any model for allocating Resources for Regions funding to councils. As mining royalties do not fund this program, it appears to be at the Government’s discretion,” Association Chair Peter Shinton said.

In response, the Minister said “I would have thought any local council would be happy to see millions of dollars in funding going into their hospital.”

Mr Roberts detailed how the Baird Government plans to spend an extra $23 million to improve water mapping and monitoring towards addressing community concerns about aquifer and groundwater impacts of mining. The NSW Office of Water will use the funds, to be spent over the next five years, to install a further 70 groundwater monitoring bores in priority areas such as the Gloucester, Gunnedah and Clarence Morton basins. Live data will be published online. He vowed to taken the Association’s concerns on board.

Mr Veitch has met with the Association of 23 councils a number of times over the past four years. “I appreciate a robust conversation with mining related councils about what we, as politicians, can do better,” he said.

“The Resources for Regions policy in NSW was poorly implemented and administered. A number of councils have expected to receive funding and have yet to see any at all. It was put clearly to the Minister that this Association is not very happy with this program. The sentiment of the Association was that Resources for Regions is being used to build infrastructure that should be funded through the State capital Works program. Health or roads capital works examples were provided.”

Asked if Labor had a better model to offer, Mr Veitch said that with the approaching election, all policy announcements would be made by Opposition Leader Luke Foley.
Chair Peter Shinton said the meeting truly facilitated the Association’s role for its member councils. “From funding for mining affected communities and mining rating issues, to mine site rehabilitation and environmental impacts, a broad spectrum of issues were discussed – with a NSW Minister and a Shadow Minister. We consist of 23 member councils across NSW, representing well over 20 percent of the land in NSW and close to 11 percent of the population. We contribute significantly to the State’s economy and the Government’s revenue, through mining royalties. We deserve to see a better deal for our communities. United, we are being heard,” he said.

Download Media Release – Mining related councils get pre-election pitches (pdf)

Association of Mining Related Councils’ New leadership

The Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) has a new chairman at its helm. The Mayor of Warrumbungle Shire Council, Peter Shinton was elected to the role, after Cr. Col Mitchell of Wollondilly Shire Council stood down. The continuing Deputy Chairs are Wollongong City Council Deputy Lord Mayor C

The Association on Mining Related Councils' new Chair, Mayor of Warrumbungle shire Council, Peter Shinton congratulated by outgoing chair, Cr. Col Mitchell of Wollondilly Shire Council.

The Association on Mining Related Councils’ new Chair, Mayor of Warrumbungle shire Council, Peter Shinton congratulated by outgoing chair, Cr. Col Mitchell of Wollondilly Shire Council.

r. Chris Connor and long-time Cobar Shire Mayor, Cr Lilliane Brady.

In another change to the Association, Gunnedah Shire Mayor, Cr. Owen Hasler replaced Cr Sharon Wilcox of Cabonne’s Shire on the Executive Committee.

With 23 member councils across NSW, the Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) is the peak representative body for mining affected councils in the State. Together, the councils represent over 20 percent of the land in NSW and close to 11 percent of the population. They contribute significantly to the State’s economy and the Government’s revenue, through mining royalties.

The Association’s new Chair is an experienced, trusted and familiar face. The State of NSW witnessed Cr Peter Shinton’s leadership during and following the bushfire crisis that devastated his Shire. The Coonabarabran bushfire started in the Warrumbungle National Park on January 12, 2013 and over the following week, it burnt out more than 54,000 hectares, countless livestock and destroying 53 homes. Cr Shinton has brought more than leadership qualities to the helm of Association. “As a former exploration geologist with experience across Australia, I am interested in all exploration and mining activities,” he said. “Working with the talented executive team and being able to call upon the expertise of the member delegates and consultants will enable this Association to strengthen its role as the primary lobby group for councils being affected by mining activities throughout NSW.”

“Under the tutelage of Cr. Col Mitchell and CEO Don Tydd over the past two years, the profile of the Association has been elevated. This has empowered the Association to play a more strategic role in representing member councils, as well as resourcing and equipping them with the latest, holistic information on mining related issues.”
In further responding to the needs for members, the Association will be conducting a Voluntary Planning Agreement Workshop in Sydney on 13 February 2015. This will incorporate the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure, together with the NSW Minerals Council.

“Voluntary Planning Agreements are important documents signed by local councils and mining companies. These VPAs address the effects that the mine will have and cover funding for vital infrastructure improvements, such as the upkeep or reconstruction of roads leading to the mines or airport upgrades, as well as social and community infrastructure,” AMRC CEO Don Tydd said. “The AMRC has also formulated and adopted a CSG policy.”

Cr. Mitchell, who chaired the Association for the past two years, said he was pleased with its recent progress. “As a constructive representative body, we now have a seat at the table and we are in a position to influence policy, consult with the mining sector and assist member councils,” he said.

For further information, contact AMRC Executive Officer, Don Tydd: 02 6775 3844 or 0418 681 320.

Download Media Release – Association of Mining Related Councils’ New leadership (pdf)

Resources for Regions expansion not enough

The Association of Mining Related Councils makes comment on the NSW Government’s announcement on the expansion of the Resources for Region’s Program to include three more mining affected Councils, but continues to express its concern at the restriction of the number of Councils eligible to receive funding under the program.

Association of Mining Related Councils Deputy Chair, Cr. Chris Connor, CEO Don Tydd, NSW Deputy Premier, the Hon. Andrew Stoner and AMRC Chair, Cr. Col Mitchell at the Association’s February 2014 meeting.

Association of Mining Related Councils Deputy Chair, Cr. Chris Connor, CEO Don Tydd, NSW Deputy Premier, the Hon. Andrew Stoner and AMRC Chair, Cr. Col Mitchell at the Association’s February 2014 meeting.

The Association of Mining Related Councils, which represents 24 councils across NSW that are affected by mining developments, has welcomed the NSW Government’s continued commitment to the Resources for Region’s program. The inclusion of three more councils under the criteria (including two member councils, Cessnock City and Broken Hill City) indicates the government is recognising that local councils must be supported when and where mining is expanding.

Councillor Col Mitchell, the Association’s Chairperson commented:

“It is however disappointing, other member councils in emerging coal and mineral mining areas around the state have not been included under the criteria.  On many occasions, the Association has lobbied the NSW Government, including the Deputy Premier, The Honourable Andrew Stoner MP, Minister for Regional Infrastructure and Services (as recently as the Association’s February 2014 meeting, where he was present) and his advisors. With supporting examples of cost burdens to local government, we have shown the need to expand the program to include all councils that have pressing physical and social infrastructure needs, where mining companies expanding their operations are paying increased royalties to the State government. The Government receives a large revenue source from royalties paid by regional mining companies and it should be substantially increasing the return of these royalties to affected councils through the Resources for Regions program” 

The Association’s Chief Executive Officer, Don Tydd explained:

“The Association will be discussing the Government’s latest announcement in relation to the Royalties for Region’s program at its Executive Committee meeting to be held in Sydney in July 2014.   There will no doubt be a recommendation to the next quarterly Association meeting also to be held in Sydney in August 2014, that representations again be made to the NSW government, the Deputy Premier and his advisors that the Resources for Regions program’s criteria be amended to include a wider number of mining affected councils and an increased amount of government funding be made available through the program. “

“I have already made contact with the Deputy’s Premier’s Chief Advisor to get the process under way,” Mr Tydd said.

Download Media Release – Resources for Regions expansion not enough (pdf)

Mining related councils to focus on CSG and Voluntary Planning agreements

The Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) is holding its next quarterly meeting this Friday, 9 May. The Bland Shire Council is hosting the meeting in West Wyalong, with the focal issues being Coal Seam Gas (CSG) and Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs).

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The AMRC has just welcomed Wentworth Shire Council in the State’s south-west, as its 24th member. The peak representative body for mining affected councils in NSW heard from the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Resources and Energy at its February meeting in Sydney.

AMRC Chair, Cr. Col Mitchell of Wollondilly Shire said that it is important to convene a meeting in the council chambers of one of our more remote councils. “It will be good to see and hear of the positives in the Bland Shire area from mining. The experiences there, particularly the economic impacts, have often been far from negative.”

“The meeting will feature a presentation by CEO of the NSW Minerals Council, Steve Galilee ,” Cr. Mitchell said. “Special Projects Officer with Wollongong City Council, Ron Zwicker, will also give a presentation entitled ‘Summary Report into Community Enhancement/Development Contributions Conditions for Mining Related Projects Across NSW Since 2006’. This research will inform the Association toward better resourcing for members as they negotiate a Voluntary Planning Agreement with a mining operation in their Local Government Area.”

AMRC CEO, Don Tydd said that it is important the Association develops a policy position on CSG at the upcoming meeting. “The Association only began looking into Coal Seam Gas last year. There is a lot of emotion and inapplicable data from overseas. The Association is trying to get to a point where we can rationally discuss the realities of the CSG issue, with the parties involved. The Association is aware that a lot of scientific concerns have not been addressed by the industry. However, the Association does recognise that NSW needs a secure gas supply. The Association aim is to look at all sides of the issue and be positioned to assist member councils in dealing with this very important issue.”

“Voluntary Planning Agreements are among the principal documents signed by local councils and mining companies. These VPAs address the effects that the mine will have and cover funding for vital infrastructure improvements, such as the upkeep or reconstruction of roads leading to the mines, as well as social and community infrastructure, even capital investment in local airports,” Mr Tydd said.

“There has been no uniform measure across NSW in relation to these agreements. They have been negotiated on an individual basis. The Association is tabling a summary of all such agreements published since 2006, to see if we can get some uniformity or benchmarks in regards to conditions that councils have achieved through VPAs, to assist in the drawing up of future Agreements. The State Government, through the Department of Planning and Infrastructure is taking an interest in these Agreements and the AMRC wants to be at the table (and well resourced) when the NSW Government’s draft guidelines are being discussed.”

Download Media Release – Mining related councils to focus on CSG and Voluntary Planning agreements (pdf)

Deputy Premier & Minister leave mining affected NSW councils underwhelmed

The Deputy Premier, the Hon. Andrew Stoner and the Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Anthony Roberts addressed the recent quarterly meeting of the Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC)  in Sydney. Key issues covered in the meeting were Resources for Regions, Coal Seam Gas (CSG) and Voluntary Planning Agreements (VPAs).

Association of Mining Related Councils Deputy Chair, Cr. Chris Connor, CEO Don Tydd, Deputy Premier, the Hon. Andrew Stoner and AMRC Chair, Cr. Col Mitchell at the recent meeting.

Association of Mining Related Councils Deputy Chair, Cr. Chris Connor, CEO Don Tydd, Deputy Premier, the Hon. Andrew Stoner and AMRC Chair, Cr. Col Mitchell at the recent meeting.

“We appreciated that Mr Stoner and Mr Roberts took time out of parliament to attend our meeting. With 23 member councils, the AMRC is the peak representative body for mining affected councils in NSW and it is appropriate that we have an open dialogue with relevant Ministers,” Association Chair, Cr. Col Mitchell (of Wollondilly Shire) said.

The AMRC has long sought a Royalties for Regions scheme, where a percentage of mining royalties which go into State Government coffers, go back to regional LGA’s to assist with mining impacts.

The Resources for Regions program involves a select number of councils being listed as eligible for a funding round. Those councils must then prepare and submit infrastructure funding applications to a panel. The ever-changing criteria have been a major area of concern for AMRC members, such as Gunnedah Shire. Cr. Mitchell said the program’s criteria must now consider mining affected councils, impacted by a mine in an adjacent LGA.

“As few as eight councils made the Resources for Regions eligibility list in the last round. Now, we are concerned that Government agencies are putting in bids for this money. We’re not happy about that at all,” he said.

Mr Stoner assured the Association of the independence of the Resources for Regions process, adding that the Government is listening and improving the program. He said new criteria will be announced shortly.

The meeting also saw Association members call for a structured process for VPAs; these can entail negotiation between a new or expanding mining operation and can include infrastructure spending by the mining before progressing. An agreement can see a mining company fund a road or water supply but they are voluntary and with no blueprint or structure to the process, councils can find it daunting, inconsistent and flawed “A Planning Officer with one of our member councils is going through all of the VPAs in NSW, over many years. He is seeing if a set of rules or guidelines can be developed,” Cr. Mitchell said.

Council delegates put a number of questions to the Ministers, including some concerning CSG and the need for an independent authority, such as an ombudsman.
Cr. Chris Connor is the AMRC Deputy Chair (and Deputy Lord Mayor of Wollongong City Council). “In respect to CSG exploration and mining, the Association of Mining Related Councils NSW has taken a policy position, which will be taken back to our communities. There are countless voices, from mining companies to environmental lobbyists, that all say they are right. We need to provide our communities with real understanding about CSG. Greater clarity on the issue would result from the release of the State’s Chief Scientist, Prof. Mary O’Kane’s final report, plus further independent research on the affects of CSG mining on the environment, looking at chemicals used, fracking, emissions, salinity, aquifers and general water impacts,” he said.

“What is the role of local government in the pre-gateway determination of lodged applications for Coal Seam Gas exploration and mining? That is a grey area at the moment. Councils do not know where they stand and as an Association representing them, we want more clarity from the NSW Government, particularly Planning NSW Minister, the Hon. Brad Hazard.”

“NSW needs to secure good gas supplies; it is an economic priority. The Santos Narrabri Gas Project could meet up to 50 percent of the State’s natural gas needs and yield up to $1.6 billion in mining royalties for the NSW Government. Yet, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently signed by Santos and the Deputy Premier, regarding this Project is concerning; we want details about what it means to the due processes.”

Cr Connor summed up how the Association felt about the Premier’s and Minister’s words on funding for mining related councils in recent years. “We were underwhelmed. Mining creates over a billion dollars in mining royalties every year. The NSW Government has offered back to local regions $100mil. over four years. Local Government and Mining sector sustainability would be better off if we got our fair share.”

Download Media Release – Deputy Premier & Minister leave mining affected NSW councils underwhelmed (pdf)