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Prototype Standard - Overarching MNES Standards

Overarching MNES Standards

Appendix 1 - Prototype National Environmental Standard for matters of national environmental significance (MNES). This section provides a prototype overarching standard for all MNES. This should be read in conjunction with the matter-specific standards and existing requirements of the EPBC Act.



Environmental Outcome

Matters of national environmental significance are protected, and decision-making actively contributes to their conservation and recovery.

National Standard

  1. Actions and decisions are consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
  2. Actions do not have unacceptablea impacts on matters of national environmental significance.
  3. Planning and funding decisions that relate to matters of national environmental significance promote their conservation and sustainable management, address key threats and fill key information gaps.
  4. Monitoring, reporting and evaluation must demonstrate compliance with this national environmental standard.

National Environmental Standards for ecologically sustainable development and monitoring and evaluation should be developed and would replace 1. and 4. Interim monitoring and reporting requirements are provided in the monitoring and reporting section of this Standard.

Monitoring and Reporting

  1. A monitoring and evaluation plan must be prepared. The plan must:
    1. be based on best available knowledge and information, and
    2. implement the precautionary principleb. Scenario analysis may be useful when uncertainty is high
    3. establish the baseline, key indicators, and monitoring activities relevant to the protected matter
    4. be over a time frame and area relevant to the potential risk, and
    5. identify thresholds for when Standards are not being met and the management response.
  2. The plan and monitoring results, and the underpinning data and information on which they are based, must be published.
  3. Accurate and complete monitoring and compliance records must be kept and provided to the Department upon request.


This is a prototype and should be replaced with a National Environmental Standard following consultation.

a Section 46(3)(c) requires that actions approved under a bilateral agreement not have unacceptable or unsustainable impacts on relevant MNES. While a number of EPBC Act decisions provide a precedent for this threshold, the definition of ‘unacceptable’ impacts requires granular and specific guidance. Further work should be undertaken to refine this definition.

b The precautionary principle is defined in s3A(b) of the EPBC Act: if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.