A survey shows that most local authorities don't have enough staff or money to deal properly with consent applications.
Every year the Ministry for the Environment reports on how fast and effectively councils carry out their Resource Management Act responsibilities.
While 97 percent of resource consents were processed on time in the last financial year, councils say they're under a lot of pressure because of limited staff resources and the poor quality of RMA applications.
Four-fifths of local authorities who responded to the survey reported limited resources for monitoring and enforcing RMA activities to the level demanded, with low staff numbers, competing demands for staff and a lack of funding.
They say the cost and time associated with enforcement is also a significant challenge.
Environment Minister Amy Adams says changes the Government wants to make to the Resource Management Act would ease the pressure on local authorities.
She says further changes the Government wants to make to the RMA, including simplifying resource consent applications, would help.
Amy Adams plans to introduce a bill on more changes to the RMA in the next few months after the Government failed to get enough support for its last package of reforms.