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Appendix B1 - Overarching MNES Standard

Recommended National Environmental Standards

Appendix B to the Final Report sets out in detail 4 recommended National Environmental Standards that were developed by the Review following consultation with science, Indigenous, environmental and business stakeholders and with input from technical experts.



Environmental Outcome

Matters of national environmental significance are protected and enhanced, and decision-making actively contributes to improvements in their conservation and management.

National Standard

  1. Actions, decisions, plans and policies that relate to MNES:
    1. Are consistent with the objects of the EPBC Act and the principles of ecologically sustainable development (including the precautionary principle) and reflect a principle of non-regression.
    2. Do not have unacceptable or unsustainable impacts on MNES, having regard to the sensitivity, value, and quality of the environment which is impacted, and upon the intensity, duration, magnitude and geographic extent of the impacts.
    3. Minimise harm to MNES, including employing all reasonable measures to avoid and then to mitigate significant impacts, and then lastly apply appropriate offsets.
    4. Are not inconsistent with relevant international agreements, recovery plans, management plans and threat abatement plans, and have regard to and ensure decisions reflect any approved conservation advice where relevant.
    5. Maintain and improve conservation, recovery and sustainable management, address detrimental cumulative impacts and key threatening processes and fill information gaps that impede recovery and appropriate management, including
      1. use all reasonable efforts to prevent actions contributing to detrimental cumulative impacts or exacerbation of key threatening processes.
    6. Are based on the best available information. Data and information should be stored and shared consistent with best practice data and information management.
  2. Engagement is undertaken with governments, the community, landholders and Indigenous peoples, consistent with the EPBC Act and National Environmental Standards.
  3. Monitoring, reporting and evaluation demonstrates compliance with National Environmental Standards.

Monitoring and Reporting

  1. A plan must be prepared and implemented to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of actions, decision, plans and policies for each MNES by all parties responsible for applying the National Environmental Standards for MNES. Each monitoring and evaluation plan must:
    1. address impacts for the relevant MNES, and be designed to understand and track all cumulative impacts at the relevant scale (e.g. national, state-wide, regional plan areas or project site),
    2. cover all actions, activities, decisions, plans, or policies that impact the outcomes for MNES, relevant to the scale,
    3. establish the baseline, key indicators and targeted outcomes, monitoring activities, evaluation and reporting processes relevant to the protected matter and the activities being conducted,
    4. be based on the best available evidence, and accord with best practice for data and information management, and other relevant National Environmental Standards and guidelines,
    5. be over a time frame and area relevant to the potential risk or benefit to the MNES,
    6. be designed to ensure the state of the MNES and any changes in its state can be quantified, with the power of analysis to detect change in the MNES explicitly identified, and
    7. identify thresholds of change in the MNES (distribution, abundance, condition, or integrity) at all relevant scales that will trigger specific mitigation or recovery actions.
  2. The monitoring plan, results, analyses, evaluation of performance against indicators and thresholds, underpinning data and information on which they are based, must be made publicly available consistent with the EPBC Act and National Environmental Standards, and any relevant conditions of approval or accreditation.
  3. Monitoring and evaluation plans must be reviewed and updated every 5 years.


National Environmental Standards should be reviewed and updated regularly, including when there are substantive changes to the EPBC Act or relevant administrative arrangements, or major events that may impact the status of protected matters.

This Standard should be applied in conjunction with all other relevant National Environmental Standards.


Cumulative impacts: the collective impacts from all actions, decisions, plans, policies and other pressures, measured against a stipulated baseline. See Significant Impact Guidelines 1.2 (2013), Significant Impact Guidelines 1.3 (2013) and Reef 2050 Plan: Cumulative Impact Management Policy (2018) for further explanation of the concept of cumulative impacts.

Key threatening processes: means a threatening process included in the list referred to in section 183 of the EPBC Act.

Objects of the EPBC Act: see section 3 of the EPBC Act.

Offset: measures that may be used once it has been demonstrated that all reasonable steps have been taken to avoid and minimise impacts, that are provided to compensate, repair or replace an impacted value, including changes to the integrity, quality, condition and/or extent of habitat. Offsets must be consistent with the EPBC Act Environmental Offsets Policy (2012, as updated from time to time), or an accredited policy relating to offsets of a state or territory. Offsets must be achievable and ecologically feasible:

  • An offset is achievable where demonstrated scientific knowledge exists on how to restore the habitat with a high confidence of success, and its long-term protection is assured (for example through conservation covenants or conservation agreements), and
  • An offset is ecologically feasible where it can be demonstrated that the species or community can be reliably restored in a timeframe proportionate to effectively address the impact of the action and enough space exists to undertake restoration (not ecologically or tenure constrained).

Principles of ecologically sustainable development (including the precautionary principle): see section 3A of the EPBC Act.

Principle of non-regression: this principle seeks to ensure the overall protection of the environment is not diminished over time. It is consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, the EPBC Act Environmental Offsets Policy (2012, as updated from time to time) and the Australian Government commitment to maintain environmental protections.

Significant impact: a ‘significant impact’ is an impact which is important, notable, or of consequence, having regard to its context or intensity. Whether or not an action is likely to have a significant impact depends upon the sensitivity, value, and quality of the environment, and upon the intensity, duration, magnitude and geographic extent of the impacts. All of these factors should be considered when determining whether an action is likely to have a significant impact. See the Significant Impact Guidelines 1.1: Matters of National Environmental Significance (2013) for more information about assessing the significance of impacts on matters of national environmental significance.

Unacceptable or unsustainable: section 46(3)(c) of the EPBC Act requires that actions approved under a bilateral agreement not have unacceptable or unsustainable impacts on relevant MNES. Whether impacts are unacceptable should be determined with reference to the nature and context of the proposed action, past decisions, and best available information.

Additional information

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    Publish date

    October 2020