A report out today has condemned the Resource Management Act for failing to live up to expectations of protecting New Zealand's environment.
Evaluating the Environmental Outcomes of the RMA was written by the Environmental Defence Society, NZ Council for Infrastructure Development and the Property Council.
It's blaming poor implementation among factors for the RMA's short comings.
The report says the RMA has jurisdiction over many of the impacts of human activities on New Zealand's fragile ecosystems, exceptional landscapes and unique wildlife.
"It has largely failed to achieve the goal of sustainable management," it says.
"A lack of national direction has limited the potential of the resource management system to effectively and efficiently achieve its environmental goals."
The report says the challenges are far from dissipating.
"Projected population and economic growth will only sharpen pressures on the environment, and restructuring of economic systems will be required to achieve genuine sustainability."
Environmental Defence Society chief executive Gary Taylor says the research was ground-breaking.
"It's time to put party politics aside and have a mature debate about how we as a nation want to effectively manage our resources to fully protect the environment and drive productivity," he said.
"There is no quick fix solution on offer here."
Among the specific issues identified by the research were:
* Agency capacity has often been insufficient to successfully implement the RMA and the government hasn't provided enough financial and logistical support
* A lack of effective strategy and oversight of decision-making has reduced the potential to protect environmental values
* Rigorous evaluation and monitoring of outcomes has been limited, eroding the potential for robust implementation
* A "narrow range of instruments" has been used to generate behaviour change
* Future reform of the RMA should proceed only where anticipated improvements are certain.
The Greens say it's the government's fault for not properly implementing the RMA and its planned changes to the legislation will make the situation even worse.
Property Council Chief Executive Connal Townsend is calling for sweeping reforms.
"We suspect from the report today that's come from the Environmental Defence Society, we think we have to seriously question the future of the RMA, and it needs a fresh re-think."
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you