How we take the farming community with us and what trajectory we are on for climate change response is all open for discussion, says Dr Rod Carr, the new chair-designate of the Climate Change Commission.
The conservationist, Emeritus Professor Sir Alan Mark, says we must face up to our situation in order to avert serious risks.
Mark, of the University of Otago, spoke at Lincoln University as keynote speaker for the university's annual state of the nation's environment address.
During his presentation, he suggested that economic growth had become "an end unto itself rather than a means to a better life" and this is bad news for sustainability.
"Many people assume that if we have a healthy economy, other aspects of well-being will follow," says Mark.
"How do we achieve a sustainable economy with a financial system that requires growth for stability?"
Mark raised several environmental concerns affecting New Zealand, including widespread rangeland degradation and loss of biodiversity in areas such as the Denniston Plateau and Secretary Island.
He also pointed out that the increasingly extreme weather patterns seen in the country were likely symptomatic of global warming.
On the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, Mark describes it as problematic as it offers "multinational corporations the ability to sue governments for losses relating to policies designed to protect the environment."
"Economic development is now outstripping environmental sustainability in many areas," he said. "Adaptation, or market forces alone, are not viable options to address the environmental crisis.
"GDP is a crude measure of goods and services, wealth and well-being and we need to get away from solely focusing on this as an indicator of a country's performance. Better indicators are healthy children, quality of life and education, native forests and white sandy beaches, as is covered by the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) approach to assessing our human welfare.
"To ignore the symptoms of environmental degradation is to fail future generations."