I spent a couple of days in WA last week where I had a chance to catch up with the state’s leader of the Nationals, the Hon Brendon Grylls MLA. Brendon made his mark on WA when the National Party held the balance of power after the 2008 state election. The Nationals platform included a ‘Royalties for Regions’ policy which sees the equivalent of 25 per cent of the state’s mining and petroleum royalty revenue (capped at $1 billion per annum) invested in the regional infrastructure, services and projects. Brendon was in the fortunate position after the election to hold either the ALP or the Liberal Party to this policy in return for the support to form government.

The money has been flowing ever since and regional communities are making full use of the funds. In Esperance I heard stories of solar energy installations and sporting floodlights, a pathway program for high school students and an amenities upgrade at a local club. In the third and latest round of funding, some $750,000 was provided for projects that totalled more than $2.2 million. In round two, $1.5 million was provided to allow more than $7 million of projects to go ahead and round one saw $3.49 million handed out to worthwhile projects.

I was interested to hear what people in metro areas, such as Perth, thought of the idea that so much money, which could have potentially been invested in major population centres, was instead being injected in smaller population centres in regional WA.

It didn’t seem to be a problem. In fact, people from regional areas, where all the mining royalties were created, often questioned why only 25 per cent of the royalties were used in regional areas. Their argument is that because the money is generated in regional areas, it should stay regional.

This is all very interesting from a NSW local government perspective. Millions of dollars are generated by mining activity in certain local government areas of NSW. Many of the employees live in mining camps and fly in for their shift and then fly back home. They contribute minimally to the income of the local council and add next to nothing to the social fabric of the community, yet put pressure on the local resources, roads and facilities. Many facilities are provided by a local council for free, in return for the rates and revenues generated from local residents.

This is just one of the many challenges that local councils face as the tentacles of mining stretch further into the western area. While mining can be fantastic for a local community, the challenge is to take full advantage of the positives without being impacted by the potential negatives.

There was exciting news during the week that Alkane had been given the green light on its Tomingley mine. Already we know of several families based in Dubbo as a direct result of this mine. As Alkane continues to work towards the progression of the rare earth minerals mine at Toongi (which will be the first mine in our local government area), our Council will continue to work on methods to take full advantage of mining.

In my opinion, we have two choices. We can lobby the state government until the cows come home and hope for a Royalties to Regions scheme, similar to the one in operation in WA. At best, this is a long-shot, and in the meantime we may suffer some of the negatives of mining. The better approach is to make our City as attractive as possible for mining families; to work with mines and let miners choose Dubbo as their preferred place to live. Their potential contribution to the financial and social fabric of our community is something we should encourage and welcome. This is a tough challenge but one which we have already started to address and one that we will continue to work towards. I don’t believe in sitting back complaining to a higher level of government when part of the solution is  in our hands. And then, if a royalty scheme comes into play, we will be in even better shape to take full advantage of it with sustainable projects.

Tell me your thoughts on the future impacts of mining on our City at  mayor@dubbo.nsw.gov.au.

Clr Mathew Dickerson

Mayor of the City of Dubbo







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