MERC Newsletter – October 2023


Delegates, here is the MERC October Newsletter, please circulate the Newsletter to your fellow Councillors and senior staff this week, so they can appreciate and understand the excellent work the Association and you are doing on behalf of your Council and community, with regard to mining and energy related matters.  

COVID-19 Virus Impact on MERC – In 2023, MERC has been resuming its’ meeting cycle activities in the normal manner. What this means for MERC delegates is that all meetings will be as “face to face” meetings. A lot of value is gleaned from being at a meeting in person and this can be lost when delegates attend by zoom. The focus will always be on giving delegates an opportunity to attend meetings. However, delegates must be present to vote for the AGM in view of the voting system in the constitution.

Next Meetings of Association. In trying to get the next MERC AGM meeting in Sydney, NSW Parliament House during parliament sitting times in Jubilee Room is becoming difficult due to the renovations going on. Next sittings of parliament are Tuesday-Thursdays on 21st–23rd and 28th-30th November 2023 and only suitable day that didn’t clash with member’s monthly meetings was 30th November, but the Jubilee has been booked on that day. The other option was the following week but because parliament is not sitting (albeit 5th– 7th December is reserved for a sitting) the Jubilee Room not available these days due to renovations.

It has been determined that the best option is to go back to the Club York rooms in Sydney for Executive Committee meeting on 7th December 2023 in the Club York. Board room from 2-5pm and the AGM/Ordinary meeting in the York Rooms on 8th December from 9am to 1pm. Please advise the Executive Officer as soon as possible if you are attending or are an apology for catering and quorum purposes.

Future 2024 Forum (REIIF) The REIIF date slots have been temporaly booked for next year in the week 5-7th June 2024 but only over 3 days. The delegates at Ordinary meeting on 3rd August confrimed that the conference will be run in partnership with RDA Orana with MERC’s Ordinary meeting being held on first day 5th June 2023, followed by site visits, networking dinner in evening, then a conference day for councils, politicians, experts and having non members and potentially new members attend as observers, then the business/industry day is on 7th June 2023.

RDA Orana Update – RDA Orana has appointed Justine Campbell as CEO to commence on 6th November. The Executive Officer will attend the Forum they have organised for 10th November in Dubbo to meet the new CEO and lock in the REIIF for 2024 and start preparations to make it a bumper event, it has the potential to be. The Chair RDA Orana, Brad Cam had this to say on the appointment of new CEO and progress with RDA Orana:

“On behalf of the RDA Orana Board, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Justine Campbell as our new Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who will begin her role with the organisation on 6 November. We were overwhelmed with the quality of applications received, however Justine stood out from the other candidates as a highly motivated leader with vision, drive and passion for economic development, and an impressive track record.

Justine is an accomplished and recognised leader who brings a wealth of experience to RDA Orana, with more than 30 years of expertise in business management and development, private and not-for-profit development, government, governance, place management, grant writing, stakeholder management, and board and organisational leadership. She is looking forward to delivering economic development outcomes in the region, working alongside the Board, all levels of government and the wider business community. The Board and staff at RDA Orana look forward to an era of continued growth, innovation, and success under her leadership. 

The countdown is on, with only two weeks until the Orana Outlook Forum, which will be held on Friday, 17 November at Lazy River Estate. This year’s forum has been strategically planned to provide business and industry leaders with information and knowledge to help guide them with decision-making for the year ahead.  

Thanks to our major sponsor, The Stable Group, nine speakers will present during the forum covering a range of topics, including tourism, agriculture, energy, transport and housing, along with a government perspective of what the future holds from the Minister for Agriculture, Regional NSW and Western NSW, the Hon Tara Moriarty MLC.

Our lunchtime keynote speaker, Circular Australia’s CEO Lisa McLean, will explain the benefits of building a regional circular economy, the opportunities available and why regional businesses need to change business-as-usual habits of take, make and waste behaviour to create a sustainable future. The forum will also provide an opportunity for attendees to meet our new CEO, Justine Campbell. Tickets for the Orana Outlook Forum are selling fast and close next Friday, 10 November 2023”.  


Meeting with Hon Courtney Houssos on 10th November 2023 in Lithgow

The Chair and Executive Officer have been invited to attend a meeting with Minister for Natural Resources in Lithgow on 10th November, from 1.30-3.30pm, at a Future Jobs and Investment Authorities Roundtable. – Central Western Region.

The NSW Government says it is committed to guiding transition and diversification in coal mining regions across NSW. Questions to discuss are:

  • Breaking down Barriers – How can the NSW Government help industry groups, employers, and employees work together to secure outcomes for Lithgow.
  • Securing our Future – How can those represented here today collaborate with each and the NSW Government to support new economic opportunities.

A similar forum was held in the Hunter Valley in August that MERC wasn’t invited too, however expressed a desire to be present in future meetings. It is refreshing to see the new State Government wanting MERC at the table for these discussions on behalf of members. No doubt some coal mining member LGA’s in the region such as Mid – Western Regional Council and possibly Wollondilly Shire Council will be in attendance.

The Future Together Group (Martin Rush) spoke about the need for a planned transition strategies and policy development approach for NSW AND Federal Governments in Dubbo in June and Parliament House in August meetings of MERC.


Meeting with Minister Hon Tara Moriarty on 28th November 2023 in Sydney

A delegation from MERC has been invited to address the Minister for Western NSW, Agricultural and Regional NSW, on the need to ensure Resources for Regions programs are replaced with a similar and improved program funded from the Regional Development Trust Fund $350m.

The meeting was organised by MP for Barwon Roy Butler with a request that delegates from his electorate be in attendance, if available, such as Broken Hill City Council and Cobar Shire, and other LGA’s such as Forbes Shire as a Council in between mining activities and Orange City Council, if possible.

We need all members to receive at least the same quantum as per the recent program, include all mining affected Councils on the list of LGA’s plus pick up others that didn’t meet the criteria in the past, such as the Employment Location Quotient etc and ensuring that LGA’s outside the Sydney Greater Sydney Region such as Wollondilly and Wollongong are regarded as regional. Any enquiries on this or ideas you might have that need to be in discussions please contact the Executive Officer who will be contacting potential delegates shortly. And working with Roy Butlers office on this.

Some delegates will recall in the past meetings/workshops that were held with former Minister Regional NSW (John Barilaro) and the departmental senior staff were beneficial to MERC members and non-members, albeit there was always still improvement to come. This is a very important meeting and MP for Barwon has done a great job for MERC to organise this meeting with the Minister for us given the following announcement. The Executive Officer will see her in Dubbo on 17th November as introduction only, if possible. See Resources for Regions commentary below.


Resources for Regions (R4R)

Members in receipt of current R4R would be aware by now that in the recent NSW Government Budget the program is not available for 23/24 budget and onwards. However, it is understood that the Regional Development Trust fund of $350m has been established to replace this program and others, with the details yet to be developed. (MERC has applied to be involved and meeting through Roy Butler’s office which has been granted for 28th November 2023).

Note the following media release from Department of Regional NSW Minister Tara Moriarty’s office:

The Minns Labor Government is delivering on its commitment to regional NSW communities by ensuring they receive their fair share of funding with a $350 million boost to the new NSW Regional Development Trust Fund and by reforming the Regional Development Act to better reflect their needs.

This Trust defines a new approach to supporting people living in rural, regional, and remote areas. The Trust will focus on improving the wellbeing of people, by improving local amenities, social cohesion, and job opportunities. Funding decisions of the Trust will be guided by a new Regional Development Advisory Council that will also play a key role in engaging communities to update the Regional Development Act. This legislation requires a makeover so it can better deliver on its economic and social growth objectives. As part of the reforms, the NSW Government will:

  • seek community input on updating the Regional Development Act 2004 to better reflect the priorities of regional and remote communities.
  • make a starting investment of $350 million into the Regional Development Trust.
  • establish the Regional Development Advisory Council to provide governance and expert advice on the priority matters requiring the Trust’s investment and advising on the reform of the Regional Development Act. The Regional Development Trust Fund will strategically invest in four focus areas:
  1. Sustainable regional industries, including emerging and engine industries.
  2. Aboriginal economic development and enterprise.
  3. Community infrastructure and capacity building.
  4. Improving regional service delivery.

Decision making on investment from the Trust will be guided by the investment principles of the Australian Government’s Regional Investment Framework. Establishment of the Advisory Council and public consultation on reforming the Act will get underway as soon as possible.

Minister for Regional NSW and Western NSW Tara Moriarty said: “These reforms to grant funding and the Regional Development Act demonstrate our government is putting the needs of regional people at the heart of our decision making. Our communities deserve this after a decade of waste, pork barrelling and poor results.

“We are committed to ensuring rural, remote, and regional communities not only get their fair share but that we are making a real and positive difference to their lives, towns and businesses. “We are also committed to distributing funds to where they are needed most.”

Speakers for Next Meeting in Sydney – The relevant Ministers that MERC needs to talk to such as Natural Resources, Planning, Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Treasury & Local Government etc will be approached to speak at futire meetings once the meeting day has been determined.

Inland NSW Growth Alliance (INGA) (formerly Orana Opportunity Network – O2N) – MERC is trialling as a Bronze Member of INGA for 12 months. Their Newsletters are available on their website on  

CRC Transformation in Mining Economies (CRCTiME) Post Mining – MERC is a partner with CRC TiME on a no cost but consultative basis. They provide quarterly updates on progress with an opportunity for members to join webinars, workshops, surveys etc. See Website

Executive Officer Services Replacement Update. The Executive Committee has completed the process for the engagement of an entity to provide Executive Officer services, utilising LGNSW Management Solutions to help with the engagement. Contracts are being signed shortly and once that occurs the Chair will announce the appointment and from when.

The current Executive Officer has not been involved in any shortlisting or the interview process which is being dealt with by the Executive Committee and Local Government Management Solutions, so if there are any enquiries in relation to the process or who it is so forth, please refer to the Chair, Cr Kevin Duffy, Orange City Council, contact details are at the end of this newsletter.

Engagement of Future Together Group (FTG) & Three Pillars Advisory. MERC has engaged Martin Rush and Amer Hussein from FTG and Three Pillars Advisory respectively, to undertake a review of MERC as follows:

  • (1) Review and refresh MERC’s value proposition, sharpen the future strategic planning review processes and membership derived value.
  • (2) Review Constitution to:
    • Support organisational effectiveness.
    • Facilitate greater membership and external cut through.
    • Enhance direct and in-kind resourcing.
  • (3) Develop a Policy Platform Structure Plan:
    • A policy gap analysis – Local Government Interest in mining & energy.
    • Prioritisation of policy – relevance to current and/or prospective members.
    • A policy and position paper roadmap in short-medium term.
  • (4) Update MERC Financial & Resourcing Plan.

The Reports have been received from Three Pillars Advisory for Items 1, 2 & 4 and FTG for item 3. The recommendations are many and will be assessed by the Executive Committee on 7th December. It is a timely review with new State Government and councils grappling with issues associated with the roll out in some areas of renewable energy developments and a new Executive Officer services provider for MERC. Meantime, current arrangements are continuing with the provision of Executive Officer services until the changeover is completed.


Under it’s constitution, MERC is required to have one General Meeting (the Annual General) a year and as many other General (Ordinary) Meetings as the Executive Committee determine. MERC must have four Executive Committee meetings a year. The Executive is to be elected annually at the AGM by delegates.

There is no provision in the constitution for postal voting (Clause 14.3) or provision for those attending the meeting by video or tele-conference on how to vote, even though if requested, tele-conferencing facilities are to be made available for delegates to attend the meeting (Clause 4.4). What does this mean to delegates? Are delegates regarded as being present at the meeting if on video or phone and if so can they vote remotely in this present day and age since Covid? Every delegate must be given the opportunity to vote, however the MERC voting system in it’s constitution requires delegates to be present to vote, as this is dependant on the number of candidates for the positions. See below an explanation of the MERC voting system.

(i) MERC Voting System Overview

Chair If more than 2 delegates stand for the position of Chair, the voting system is to be preferential, otherwise if only 2 stand, the voting system is to be by either Open Voting (show of hands) or Ordinary Ballot (secret ballot);

Deputy Chair For the Deputy Chair (two positions), if contested, ie more than 2 nominations, the voting system that must be used is to be by preferential.

Executive Committee For the 3 Executive Committee positions, if contested, ie more than 3 nominations, the voting system used must be preferential.

Voting What this means is that delegates need to be in attendance to vote, no postal or zoom.

Call for Nominations Due Date If an election is to be held, the nominations in the prescribed form, must be in to the Executive Officer no later than 2 weeks prior to the AGM, so that will be by 4.30pm 23rd November 2023.

Nomination Process Nominations are to be seconded by a current delegate signed or emailed to Executive Officer with an intention to sign plus have the option of attaching a resume. Delegates can nominate for all three positions but only one from each member Council can be on the Executive Committee.Nominations are  to be with Executive Oficer one week from the AGM ie by 4.30pm 29th November 2023.

(ii) The Election of Executive Committee Positions Process (Extract from Constitution)

Voting Clause 14.6 Elections for a position on the Executive and Executive Committee shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions outlined in the sub clauses 14.6.1, 14.6.2, 14.6.3 and 14.6.4, of the MERC constitution following.

14.6.1          Contested Elections – Chairperson & Deputy Chairperson                     

  • If the number of candidates nominated for the positions of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson is greater than one or two, the election is to be a contested election.
  • In the event of there being only two nominations for the election of one candidate for the indicated positions in (1), the voting system in such contested election will be by Ordinary Ballot (secret ballot) or by Open Voting (show of hands);
  • In the event of more than two nominations for a position in (1), the voting system used for the election shall be the preferential system.
  • If a contested election is required for either Chairperson or Deputy Chairpersons, the decision on the voting method for (2) is to be made at the Annual General Meeting immediately prior to the election.

14.6.2       Contested Election – Three positions for the Executive Committee

(1)      If the number of candidates nominated for the three (3) remaining Executive Committee positions is greater than that number, the election is to be a contested election.

(2)      The voting system in a contested election for the three (3) positions will be preferential.

  • Candidates’ Nominations and Resumes
  • Nominations for office bearer positions are to be called for by the Executive Officer no later than two (2) weeks prior to the Annual General meeting date.
  • The Candidates for the positions in clause 14.6.1 and clause 14.6.2 should forward their nominations on the form provided to reach the Executive Officer not later than 4.30pm one week prior to the Annual General Meeting. Candidates should ensure their nomination is seconded by a current Association delegate. This may take the form of the seconder signing the candidate’s nomination form or alternatively by sending an email confirming their intent to second the nomination to reach the Executive Officer by the date of the election.
  • The nomination can be accompanied by a brief resume setting out details of the candidate’s background in local government and the Association (if applicable) for distribution to delegates by the Executive Officer; SEE ATTACHED FORM



Position Nominated – Please Circle*: CHAIR/ DEPUTY CHAIR/ EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE.


Note1: Chair (1 to be elected), Deputy Chair (2 to be elected) & Executive Committee (3 to be elected)

Note2: The election for all positions will be conducted in accordance with the Association’s Voting Policy (if contested) ie by either Open Voting (show of hands) or Ordinary Ballot (secret ballot) for Chair and preferential for Chair if more than 3 and all Deputy Chair & Executive. Committee positions.

*Note3: You can nominate for all three positions, by circling the positions you are interested in above. If you are not elected as Chairperson, then your nomination for Deputy Chair will apply. If not elected to one of the two Deputy Chair positions your nomination will be for the election of one of the 3 Executive Committee delegates.

NAME: ______________________________ COUNCIL _____________________________

*Seconded by Name: ___________________ Seconders’ Council______________________

Seconders’ Signature ___________________ or email to Executive Officer (circle this option)                                      

I agree to the nomination, please sign here Signature: _____________________________________ or email to Executive Officer your acceptance of nomination (tick this option here)     


(Note: Constitution – Clause 14.6.3 Candidates’ Nominations and Resumes: 

Clause states “Nominations for office bearer positions are to be called for by the Executive Officer no later than two weeks prior to the Annual General meeting date”;

Cl states “The candidates for the positions in Clauses 14.6.1 and 14.6.2 should forward their nominations on the form provided to reach the Executive Officer not later than 4.30pm one week prior to the Annual General Meeting.

Candidates should ensure their nomination is seconded by a current Association delegate. This may take the form of the seconder signing the candidate’s nomination form or alternatively by sending an email (confirming their intent to second the nomination) to reach the Executive Officer by the date of the election.”

Cl states “ The nomination can be accompanied by a brief resume setting out details of the candidates background in local government and the Association (if applicable) for distribution to delegates by the Executive Officer”) Brief Resume attached (This is optional – Please circle Yes/No.)

Please forward the Nomination Form with resume (if relevant) to the Executive Officer by 4.30pm 29th November 2023 by Scanning/Email to: or  Greg Lamont Executive Officer 0407937636


Mining & Renewable Energy articles

Super Battery: Biggest Machine To be connected to Australian Grid Starts to Take Shape” Arcle by Gile Parkinson, 2nd November 2023, Renew Economy. “Most people think they understand what a battery is: Everyone has one in their phone, in their appliances, and in the car. But in terms of the grid, battery storage is probably the most misunderstood of all the technologies – mostly because it doesn’t just store energy, as most assume. It has many strings to its bow.

The Waratah Super Battery is a case in point. When it is in full operation in early 2025, the 850 MW/1680 MWh facility will be the biggest battery in Australia, and one of the biggest of its type in the world. It will also be, according to developer and owner Akaysha Energy, which is itself now owned by global asset management giant Blackrock, the single biggest asset ever connected to the National Australia Market, the official name for the country’s main grid.

“This will be the largest ever single DUID (dispatchable unit identifier) in the history of the NEM. There is no partitioning, just a single asset,” Nick Carter, the CEO of Akaysha, said during a presentation at the All Energy, conference in Melbourne last week.

The primary function of the Waratah Super Battery is not to store energy for later use, at least not in the way that most people imagine it. It is best described as a giant “shock absorber”, holding capacity in reserve (700 MW and 1400 MWh) that allows the major transmission lines bringing power to the major demand centres in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle to be used at greater capacity.

“We like to refer to this as a virtual transmission service,” Carter says. “We think this is a really important use case for the energy transition because we always hear in the media issues around how much money it takes and how long it takes to build new transmission, and this particular project is a great example of what can be done today. The technology exists now. These services exist now. “The way to think about this is really the utilisation of existing line infrastructure. Currently, those lines that are heading out to the renewable energy zone are only really run at about half the capacity at 500 megawatts each.”

“When the Eraring power station is closed, the issue is evacuating the power from the renewable energy zones into that Sydney, Wollongong catchment. You can’t do it without running the lines hard. “And the only way you can run the lines hard is to have this service with 700 megawatts, sitting in reserve. So, you can start to run both of those lines further up to up to around 850 megawatts beach. And if one of them (transmission lines) trips, the battery ramps up and the renewable energy zone ramps down, so you keep that single line running, and that allows TransGrid to reconfigure the network in enough time to stop any kind of load shedding events.

“So we think that’s a great service. We see applications for this type of service all around the world, so pretty much every transmission upgrade is looking at this option.” Akaysha says it is on track to finish the project on time, and many of the concrete foundations have been poured. It has hosted dignitaries at the site, including state energy minister Penny Sharpe in recent weeks. “I have never seen so much conduit,” Carter quipped. Akaysha has deliberately sized the battery above the contract with the Australian Energy Market Operator and Transgrid, so it will have another 150 MW and 280 MWh to trade in the arbitrage market and offer other services such as frequency control.

It is being built – like so many other big batteries across the grid – on the ruins of a shuttered coal-fired power station. And some, like Akaysha’s Ulinda battery in Queensland, and many others, are being built next to existing coal fired power stations. In this case it is Munmorah, on the Central Coast, and the batteries are actually being installed on top of the old coal stockpile. “These big heaps of coal, that is where the battery is,” said Danny Lu, the senior vice president at US-based Powin, which is providing the smarts for the battery management system, while pointing to an old picture of the Munmorah power station. “We are all playing a role in the energy transition. Just the fact that this project is turning that coal fired power station into an energy storage system is a real example of what is possible in this energy transition.”

Drones used to X-Ray in Assessments on the Health of Solar Farms “Jacinta Bowler, 2nd November, Renew Economy writes “Quality assurance company PV Lab Australia and tech company QE Labs have recently undertaken the first drone-based electroluminescence (EL) inspection to a solar farm in Australia. While traditional EL inspections – a kind of x-ray but for solar panels – would only be done on a sample of a farm’s PV, the drone-based technique can analyse every single panel, rooting out faulty or damaged modules which look fine on the surface.

“Where you might have done a random sample before, now you can get a crystal-clear image of the quality of your entire solar plant, and any issues that you might be able to see,” Lawrence McIntosh, a partner from PV Lab, told RenewEconomy. “Hail damage or degradation; handling, transport or manufacturing defects – all that now becomes easily visible.”

In May this year, PV Lab and QE Labs jointly did a EL drone inspection on 43,109 panels at a large solar farm. This was done over 9 nights, with over 36 hours of flight time. The inspection needs to be done at night because the solar panels are operated in ‘reverse’, with the energy leaving the solar panels turning them into what McIntosh calls essentially ‘big, flat, infra-red LED lights. This allows the team to see any issues under the surface.

“The ability of drone EL mapping to accurately pinpoint problematic modules is a game-changer for us. We can now selectively replace the worst-performing modules, wherever they are in the plant,” the company said in a statement. “This allows significant improvement of the overall system performance and for us to maximise our energy output.”

While traditionally PV Lab Australia would undertake the EL inspections inside a lab, the technology had to undergo several changes before being strapped to a drone. “We run a lab in Canberra, and we do this all the time in a lab. That’s got a camera that we hold still, we’ve got it in a dark room, we also hold the panel really still and the photo might take 30 to 40 seconds to expose,” said McIntosh.

A drone on the other hand can’t be perfectly still, it needs to take the images in just a fraction of a second, and it needs to be small enough to fit on a drone. “We really have to point to our partners, Singaporean QE labs for solving a great deal of these technical challenges.” The thousands of images of solar panel data also lead to another issue though – how to analyse it. “The sheer volume of data that can be collected now also needs to be handled in such a different way, because we’re talking about 1000s of images,” said McIntosh. “That requires machine learning to analyse and assess what’s seen in the images. That needs to be trained by people but to get a person to look at 40,000 images would just not be practical.”




Disclaimer The comments and details in the articles in this newsletter do not reflect the views, policies or position of the Association or its member Councils and are sourced and reproduced from public media outlets by the Executive Officer to provide information for members that they may not already be exposed to in their Local Government areas.       

Contacts Clr Kevin Duffy (Chair) or 0418652499 or Greg Lamont (Executive Officer) 0407937636,  .