Message from the Chief Freshwater Commissioner

Message from the Chief Freshwater Commissioner

Welcome to the Office of the Chief Freshwater Commissioner.

On 7 January 2022 I succeeded Professor Peter Skelton CNZM who retired after 18 months as the first Chief Freshwater Commissioner and a long and distinguished career covering many facets of the environment, adjudication and governance. I am extremely grateful to him for his energy and wisdom in getting this new process up and running.

We have embarked on a new, streamlined freshwater planning process that is intended to help New Zealand move more quickly to protect and restore our freshwater.

The task for Regional Councils and Unitary Authorities (Councils) is to notify freshwater planning instruments (policy statements and plans) by the end of 2024 at the latest and have them in place by 2026. This will be demanding, but it is achievable.

Provided councils do the up-front work well, making sure they have a thorough process for working with iwi and including public views, then there is very little downside to streamlining the process for finalising instruments.

It’s important to acknowledge we’re not starting from scratch. Every Council in the country has been working on freshwater planning instruments for some years. I am expecting this process to build on what’s already there.

The big shift is the requirement to give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai, which will require ongoing development in how Councils work with iwi and hapū.

Everyone Peter Skelton and I have spoken to – Councils, iwi, the primary sector, and communities – wants this process to work. If we focus on what we all want, then we can make it work.

Judge Laurie Newhook,

Chief Freshwater Commissioner