Community environmental management (CEM) involves achieving environmental objectives through the facilitation of community partnerships, local dialogues, consultations and participative decision making. This is increasingly seen as a solution to some of the more complex environmental issues facing regulatory authorities. However, little has been written about how CEM programmes should be evaluated, and this is particularly concerning given that the establishment of a causal relationship between community participation and environmental outcomes is not straight forward. Anecdotal evidence suggests that CEM programmes have much potential, but the lack of a robust evidence-base for their effectiveness means that their role in resource management is often not well understood or well integrated with other environmental management tools and processes. This paper reports on a project that developed a novel, systemic CEM evaluation methodology and trialled it in an intervention with a regional council in New Zealand. The methodology has the potential to be adapted for other contexts where there is a need for more robust evidence of the value (or otherwise) of CEM.