Environment Minister Nick Smith says a report into the resource consent process for Trustpower's Wairau River hydro scheme in Marlborough highlights the need for reforms to the Resource Management Act.
Trustpower was granted consents for the canal-based scheme after hearings over two years that cost more than $1 million.
A report into the consent process for the Ministry for the Environment was carried out by aquatic ecologist Brent Cowie.
Dr Smith says the complex and lengthy hearings were criticised by both Trustpower and opponents of the $275 million project.
The report says much of the criticism was of the year's gap between the scheme's consent and the release of conditions.
Dr Smith says small councils like Marlborough District don't have the systems or expertise to deal with such complex applications.
He says problems should be averted in future because major applications will be heard by the new Environment Protection Authority.
An appeal against Trustpower's Wairau scheme begins in the Environment Court next month.