An environmental lobby group says the Department of Conservation is losing its nerve and the environment will suffer.
The comment follows Radio New Zealand's revelation that DoC discarded a 50-page draft submission on the proposed Ruataniwha Dam in favour of just a few lines.
DoC's draft said the dam, proposed for Hawke's Bay, could make the Tukituki River toxic and kill threatened fish species.
However, that criticism was not included in its final submission.
DoC says the Tukituki River is not a top priority and is considered of medium conservation value.
It says a full submission with the necessary research and expertise would have cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Forest and Bird says DoC is no longer doing its job properly and is neglecting its statutory obligations.
He says DoC has lost its nerve in recent years due to political pressure.
"We've got a situation where DoC is saying it wants to have more partnerships with the community, but by stepping away from doing its statutory functions it's putting more load on the community to pick up the job that DoC should be doing," he says.
Mr Hackwell says most community groups are not resourced to do that job properly.
Hawke's Bay Fish and Game manager Peter McIntosh says DoC let New Zealanders down by not making a full submission on the proposed dam.
However, Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay president Will Foley says DoC was right to discard its draft submission.
"The draft report is probably just that, it's a draft ... what's the information that backs up the environmental impacts it's talking about," he says.
Mr Foley says a dam would relieve pressure on farmers in the area who have endured a succession of droughts in the past seven years.