Revolutionary political, social and economic changes in New Zealand during the last seven years have impacted upon policy-making for management and development of the Country's physical resources. In particular, transfer of public works activities to the private enterprise during this metamorphosis, is directly affecting standards for design and management of the built environment. The lessons from this New Zealand experience sound warnings to European and Scandinavian nations, Canada, and Australia, which have also embarked upon a devolution of public works activities to private enterprise. In April 1988 the New Zealand Ministry of Works and Development was abolished by Act of Parliament. This was one of several government departments to be abolished since the Government began its programme of social and economic re-structuring in 1984. The idea was to simultaneously reduce government spending, increase accountability, and stimulate commercial activity in servicing, design and consulting business. Few participants and observers would dispute that a metamorphosis of this kind was justifiable, necessary, and long over-due. But the new expansion of experience which is expected to result from involvement of private enterprise in what were formerly affairs of government must be weighed against the absence of co-ordinated non-commercial information for decision-making. What is now missing, is an organisation with abilities to initiate concepts, projects, and standards for the public good through central government political processes. There are no longer co-ordinated building research activities and data bases. Government ministers are no longer guided about policies for building standards and environmental development. We rely on their imaginations and their diligence in seeking advice from professionals. Those who advise them, most certainly do so for commercial or political gain. Our experience with the abolition of the Ministry of Works and Development, and with establishment of a commercial architecture and engineering consulting practice in its place, provides a case study of the effects of this metamorphosis on such diverse issues as safety standards in buildings and environmental resource management. The case study also shows that by reinstating public power through open consultation and debate, professionals in practice and research can ensure that the New Zealand metamorphosis does not indeed become an environmental crisis.