Department of Conservation director-general Al Morrison says that New Zealand's conservation strategy needs a major overhaul.
Mr Morrison's comments were made at a Forest & Bird's conference, which was held at Te Papa Museum in Wellington on Saturday.
The conference looked at how New Zealand needs to rethink conservation in the coming decades.
Mr Morrison said that means looking at the myth that to have a healthy environment, you first need a strong economy.
"Let's re-think what conservation success is, and how we get there in partnership with others," he says. "Let's confront an economic system that isn't good for the environment and is building up a massive environmental debt for future generations".
Mr Morrison says that means delivering goods that consumers are seeking, but in a clean, green way.