MERC Newsletter – October 2019


Delegates, here is the October 2019 MERC Newsletter sent out on 2nd November 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

The Guidelines for VPA’s and a VPA framework agreement (including scope and calculation methodologies) has now been agreed to by NSWMC & the MERC VPA Working Party. A foreword is being written for both Chairs/Executive Officers to sign off as part of the document. A copy of the final document won’t be in the November meeting business papers for delegates’ information as previously hoped until this is done.


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

In our pursuit of the R4R being changed to suit mining affected Councils, MERC working party has been very active. A meeting was held on 23rd August 2019 and again on 15th October 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, their report is in thie link below. Here is what Caitlan Sandercock, Senior Project Officer, Resources NSW says:

“Just a quick note that the research and analysis we commissioned UTS to help inform the Resources for Regions Strategic Review has been synthesised into a report and published on our website. The department issued a media release last night noting its completion.

The report is here:

I’ll be in touch shortly to organise a follow up meeting with you and the key MERC members to discuss further progress on the review.”

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 Government 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.


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 been a response from the senior staff on whether RAF is to continue or not with the situation still being assessed. More detail is provided in the business apapers for Gloucester meetings on 7/8th November 2019.


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.

A tour on the Thursday afternoon has been 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.

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

There wont be any speakers for the next Ordinary meeting day due to it being busy with Annual General Meeting, elections, Life Membership presentation, workshop on the Strategic Plan review, etc. MERC is pursuing 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.

The Policy is on the business papers to adopt now all changes have been checked. 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. He and supervisors have been concentrating on 3 main tasks – progressing the design of the engagement process and evaluation framework; seeking agency support for the project and further funding for the project


MERC November Executive Committee Elections 8th November 2019

The election for positions on the Executive of MERC will take place on 8th November 2019. Nominations have been received for Chair (Cr Peter Shinton, Warrumbungle), Deputy Chair (Cr Sue Moore, Singleton and Cr Owen Hasler, Gunnedah) as Cr Lilliane Brady, OAM, Cobar, did not seek re-election, so they will be declared elected at the Annual General Meeting.


Nominations for the remaining 3 positions on the Executive Committee have been received from Cr Michael Banasik (Wollondilly), Cr Jim Nolan (Broken Hill), Cr Phyllis Miller (Forbes), Cr Melanie Dagg (Cessnock), Kevin Duffy (Orange) and Cr Dan Thompson (Singleton). The election will be conducted under the Preferential voting system and the Returning Officer is Adrian Panucci, General Manager, Mid Coast Council.


Related Matters of Interest – Mining and Energy Issues

“$6 million for metals exploration in regional NSW Media Release, Deputy Premier, Hon John Barilaro”, Tuesday, 29 October 2019. Explorers are being encouraged to search new areas of the state for both traditional and hightech metal deposits thanks to $6 million in grants from the NSW Government to attract new investment into regional NSW. 

Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Resources John Barilaro said the third funding round of the New Frontiers Cooperative Drilling program will reimburse successful applicants for up to 50 per cent of their per metre drilling costs up to a maximum of $200,000.  Speaking at the sixth annual International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne today, Mr Barilaro announced a $2 million funding boost, on top of $4 million allocated under two previous rounds of the program. 

“We’ve already seen the benefits from previous rounds of this fund, with the first Cooperative Drilling hole in a project near Broken Hill striking high-grade platinum group metals and leading to a $5 million joint venture investment,” Mr Barilaro said.  “Our goal is to make NSW the number one state for new mineral exploration and resources investment across the nation, and we’re doing that by providing greater support for explorers and investors, and providing greater certainty for the mining sector.” 

The NSW Government has just completed the largest-ever aerial electromagnetic (AEM) survey by area in NSW history, with researchers looking for clues for new copper, gold and zinc deposits, and groundwater, over more than 19,000 km2 in the Greater Cobar region.

 “A vast array of metals are used worldwide to manufacture high-tech products such as smartphones, satellite components and pacemakers, as well as renewable energy technologies including wind turbines and the batteries in hybrid and electric cars,” Mr Barilaro said.  “Global demand for metals is growing strongly and we want to ensure that the people of NSW, especially the NSW Central West, have every chance to capitalise on that demand, with the exploration for new mineral deposits and groundwater sources generating jobs, attracting investment and bringing economic and social benefits to local communities.” 

Data from the AEM survey will be available to the public in the first quarter of 2020, adding to a range of other detailed maps and geological information already available from the Resources and Geoscience website. 

Mr Barilaro also launched the NSW Government’s new Online Minerals Prospectus, another key deliverable of the NSW Minerals Strategy. “This dynamic online portal acts as a one-stop shop for explorers, project developers and mining investors, giving them the tools and guidance they need to tap into the minerals and business potential of NSW, especially regional NSW,” Mr Barilaro said.  “Mineral exploration is a high-risk investment with long life cycles that can exceed 20 years, but NSW offers the conditions for success and the NSW Government strongly supports our minerals industry and the responsible development of our mineral resources into the future.”

“Mining makes a significant contribution to the NSW economy and provides a wide variety of benefits to communities across regional NSW, including employment, with the industry supporting more than 29,000 direct and 115,000 indirect jobs.”

For more information on the Cooperative Drilling Program visit View the Online Minerals Prospectus at


National renewables in agriculture conference” 14th November 2019, 9am – 4.30pm, The Range Function Centre, 308 Copland Street, Wagga Wagga. Charlie Prell, Australian Wind Alliance has invited delegates to attend this conference and expo. The objective of the conference is to explore the relationship between renewables and Agriculture and the opportunities that this shift to renewables is presenting to regional Australia. This is very similar to the theme of the workshop you organised and that I spoke at in Crookwell.


There will be a plethora of information at this upcoming conference in Wagga that would be very useful for Councils to access and absorb. Is it possible for you to forward this email and the attached flyer to your group of councils please? I know this is very short notice, but if there are any councillors and/or council staff who would be able to attend, I am sure it will be very worthwhile for them.

Please get in touch if you need any further information about the event.  Charlie 0427224839

“New Grid Reliability Fund a welcome boost to transmission investment” 30th October 2019

A funding injection of $1 billion to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) by the Federal Government can accelerate investment in the electricity transmission network and prepare the energy system for the shift from coal to renewable energy, the Clean Energy Council said today.

Clean Energy Chief Executive Kane Thornton said Australia’s power grid was designed for the last century and it is becoming increasingly obvious that major investment and reform are needed.  “We know that new poles and wires are essential to the development of a modern electricity system. The Grid Reliability Fund is the first increase in capital since the CEFC was established, and can leverage significant private investment into one of the areas of greatest need,” Mr Thornton said.

“It is reassuring to see both the Federal Government and the opposition recognising the importance of investment in network infrastructure and grid stabilising technologies to unlock new generation investment and bring down power prices. Targeted government funding has a role to play in kick-starting urgent investment in a future-ready network.”

Mr Thornton said there is a huge pipeline of new clean energy projects in the system that can help bring prices down, but many investors are holding off due to grid constraints and a lack of certainty on energy and climate policy. “It is important that there is significant transparency and objectivity in how the fund will support new generation projects short-listed under the Underwriting New Generation Investment program,” he said.

“It is important that the new fund is objective, transparent and does not become politicised. It also needs to be operated in a way that leverages the strong interest from the private sector in Australia’s clean energy future rather than acting to ‘crowd out’ investment.”  

Transmission and grid connection were the highest priorities for executives in the clean energy industry in the last two Clean Energy Outlook surveys, which are conducted every six months. Refer


“NSW communities are invited to apply for grants that will assist them reduce climate change impacts such as heatwaves, bush fires or floods.

The Increasing Resilience to Climate Change (IRCC) community grants program is providing $600,000 in the first round of grants. Grants between $10,000 and $30,000 are available for individual projects. Community groups can partner with local councils in their applications for funding under the IRCC.

The grants are funded through the Climate Change Fund, which allows the NSW Government to better support the community in its response to the effects of climate change.

Environment Minister Matt Kean said these grants will help local communities plan, coordinate and take action to increase their resilience and adapt.

“IRCC grant funding has already benefited Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils for a cool suburbs rating tool and Bega Valley Shire Council to upgrade community halls to be more climate-resilient during extreme heat events,” Mr Kean said.

Apply for round one funding by 31 January 2020(external link)


Eligible NSW residents will be offered a free rooftop solar system and installation, saving them around $300 each year on their energy bills.          NSW Government Circular, 25th October 2019. Refer

Up to 3000 low income households will be provided with a 3-kilowatt rooftop solar system valued at $4000 per installation, as part of a $15 million commitment from the NSW Government to reduce the impact of high energy prices. Recipients will be selected from five regions across the state for the trial, including the Central Coast, North Coast, South Coast, Sydney-South and the Illawarra-Shoalhaven areas.  

Eligible applicants must meet criteria that includes owning their home in a selected region, having a valid Pensioner Concession or a Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card, and opting out of the Low Income Household Rebate for 10 years.

NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said the NSW Government is committed to reducing emissions and acting on climate change, while also ensuring affordable and reliable energy for the people of NSW.

“Through the Solar for Low Income Households trial, we will unlock the environmental and economic benefits of clean energy for more homes in NSW,” Mr Kean said.

Find out more about the Solar for Low Income Households trial(external link)


“From Warwick Giblin, Oz Environmental on ICAC Inquiry into the regulation of lobbying, access and influence in NSW – FW: OPERATION ECLIPSE PUBLIC INQUIRY: Professor Mary O’Kane’s presentation today 22/10 at the ICAC”

This afternoon Professor Mary O’Kane, Chair of the Independent Planning Commission (IPC), gave evidence at the ICAC Inquiry into the regulation of lobbying, access and influence in NSW. I watched the Hearing on live streaming. Prof O’Kane’s key messages were:

  1. At the time of her appointment in April 2018, Minister Roberts was clear in his instructions that the IPC was to be independent, transparent, open, make robust decisions and rebuild public trust in the decisions on major projects;


  1. When asked by the ICAC how the introduction of public transcripts of essentially all meetings was received, she said:
  • By proponents: ‘Basically neutral’;
  • By the community: ‘very positive’;
  • By the DPIE: ‘quite negatively’. She went on to say the public transcripts had a ‘very chilling affect’ on the Dept with regards to interactions between the DPIE and the IPC and that the ‘Dept expressed its discomfort’ and was sometimes ‘unwilling to answer questions’ put to it by the IPC;


  1. Until recently, whenever the IPC wished to meet with other Govt Depts and certain specific officials, such meeting requests were arranged by the DPIE. However, that process proved unsatisfactory to the IPC as the key personnel it explicitly wanted to interview often did not present at such meetings. The IPC has now changed that process and arranges its own meetings with other Departments and no longer goes via the DPIE.   


“Snowy costs queried”

The promised Snowy Hydro 2.0 project has been described as “too expensive” by a leading energy expert. With costs and timeframes blowing out, concern has been raised about whether the multi-billion-dollar scheme is worthwhile.

“Here is a project that is likely to cost five times more than the then prime minister [Malcolm Turnbull] said it would, and whose capability is nowhere near what has been claimed of it,” director of the Victorian Energy Policy Centre, Bruce Mountain, has told the ABC. “This is a project that we can confidently forecast will be a drain on the public purse and whose service in the transition to a cleaner energy future can be met far more cheaply from other sources.

“Snowy Hydro 2.0 was a political get-out-of-jail card, played at the public’s expense.”

Dr Mountain has suggested an independent panel review the project, to see if it is worth doing, and whether the money could be better spent.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull first announced the project in 2017, saying it would cost $2 billion and be up and running by 2021.

Less than a year later, that estimated cost had doubled, and by the time a contract for part of the project was signed in 2019, the cost was up to $5.1 billion — not including transmission costs, which will be billions more.

It is yet to be determined who will actually pay for the transmission.

Snowy Hydro says it should not bear the cost, as it will not be the only user of the infrastructure. The company says taxpayers will pay for it, and that they will welcome the “downward pressure” on energy bills.

Dr Mountain is not convinced. “There will be public subsidy in Snowy Hydro — whether it comes from the electricity payer or the taxpayer is yet to be worked out — but it will be a loss overall,” he said.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has not conceded that there has been a major cost blowout.

“We made our investment decision after we had done a cost benefit and after we’ve done the feasibility work in December 2017. The cost came out at $3.8 billion to $4.5 billion,” he told reporters.

There is also the question of Snowy Hydro’s competing priorities. The government wants the company to push down power prices but also make a profit on behalf of taxpayers.

Mr Taylor claims it will do both.

“The beauty of this investment is that it can deliver an investment for shareholders, which is Snowy and ultimately the Australian taxpayers, and at the same time put downward pressure on electricity bills,” he said.

Despite Mr Turnbull’s original claim that the project will be generating electricity by 2021, Snowy Hydro says it will be at least 2025.

The new scheme aims to create an energy store, where water is pumped from the lower reservoir, Talbingo, to the upper reservoir at Tantangara when power prices are low.

The water would then be released and run back down hill to generate electricity when demand and power prices are high. The plans require 27 kilometres of new tunnels, which conservationists say will permanently damage or destroy 100 square kilometres of the Kosciuszko National Park.

Snowy Hydro says only 1 square kilometre of national park will be permanently damaged.

Experts say there are far cheaper ways to achieve the same result as the massive Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme, such as demand management.

They also criticise the size and seeming inevitability of the scheme, saying it has distorted the renewable energy investment market, pushing potential competitors away from new projects. Refer



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