The purpose of the environment reference standard is to set those environmental values for the community, in a clear and accessible way, to help us achieve and protect the environmental outcomes sought by all Victorians. They will describe the environment in terms of the features that we value to allow a range of important uses. For example, a standard may describe the quality of water for its use as a drinking source, or as a place to swim in, as being environmental values.
Environment reference standards are made up of objectives for supporting different uses, and indicators that tell us whether those objectives are being met.
Each standard specifies which part of the environment it applies to as a location within Victoria. This means that a standard may apply only to a specific location, for example, Port Phillip Bay, or to the whole of Victoria.
Environment reference standards will assist in assessing and reporting on current environmental conditions, and changes in those conditions over time, creating a set of benchmark values.
Although the environment reference standards are not ‘compliance standards’ for businesses, EPA must consider environment reference standards when assessing development, operating licences and pilot licences under the new Act.
We may also use the standards for:
- making other decisions under the Act that may have an impact on the environmental values of a location
- setting benchmarks and goals for maintaining environment values in the long term
- monitoring changes in the environment over time.
Relevant environment reference standards will be considered by:
- the Minister when:
- making Regulations
- developing compliance codes
- declaring issues of environmental concern
- environmental auditors when conducting audits
- VCAT when relevant to reviewing EPA decisions
- responsible authorities, when making planning decisions.
We are currently developing the first set of environment reference standards, that will take effect with the new Act. To support a smooth transition, we will look at the beneficial uses set out in our existing state environment protection policies, as a starting point. The proposed standards and impact statement will be published for public comment in mid-2019.
Environment reference standards must be reviewed every 10 years, but can also be updated more often as new knowledge becomes available, such as when our understanding of risks of harm change.