The Freshwater Commission – a leap of leopards?

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A leap of leopards is the term for a collection of leopards


Can a Leopard Change its Spots?

The simple answer to this riddle is yes. A leopard change its location

A leopard never changes it spots means that it’s impossible for one to change their character, even if they will try very hard. 

The Bible verse from Jeremiah 13:23 says “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” 

This verse has often served as a basis of belief that a person’s innate character cannot be changed, just as their physical aspects of colour cannot be easily altered (setting aside hair colour!). 

Both leopard analogies seem very apt when looking at the recently created Freshwater Commission;

The Freshwater Commission

A new freshwater planning process factsheet (

This factsheet provides a high-level overview of the new freshwater planning process (FPP) introduced by the Resource Management Amendment Act 2020. The freshwater planning process The freshwater planning process is a new plan-making process that regional councils and unitary authorities (‘regional councils’) must use for proposed freshwater provisions in regional policy statements and regional plans (excluding regional coastal plans). This process must be used for proposed regional policy statements or regional plans (or changes) that give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPS-FM) or otherwise relate to freshwater (‘freshwater plans’).1 If only part of the planning instrument relates to freshwater, the council must use the FPP for that part, and use the schedule 1 process for the other parts. The FPP was introduced to enable regional councils to make changes to their freshwater plans in a robust but more efficient way than the current RMA schedule 1 planning process. The FPP will streamline decisions on freshwater plans by: • requiring regional councils to notify freshwater plans that give effect to the NPS-FM by 31 December 2024 and make final decisions within two years of notification2 • establishing independent freshwater hearings panels with enhanced hearings powers, made up of expert freshwater commissioners, council and tangata whenua nominees

Freshwater commissioners and fast-track consenting convenor appointed |


Concerns raised by the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers (NZFFA)

The NZFFA is concerned that a fast-track freshwater consenting commission comprised of commissioners who have singularly failed to protect freshwater environments in the past, has been established by the Ministry for the Environment to make the regional council consenting processes “more efficient”.

The Chief Freshwater Commissioner

“Overseeing robust and efficient freshwater planning

The Chief Freshwater Commissioner plays a key role in the Freshwater Planning Process

Regional Councils and Unitary Authorities are expected to have plans in place to protect and restore waterways by 2026. These plans will give effect to Te Mana o Te Wai by prioritising the health and well-being of freshwater, in line with the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020 and other national direction under the Resource Management Act.

The Freshwater Planning Process sets out how decisions will be made on what’s in those plans, taking the views of tangata whenua, communities and other interested parties into account.

Find out more about the process here

Chief Freshwater Commissioner Peter Skelton says this process is intended to help New Zealand move more quickly to protect and restore our freshwater. Read more from the Chief here


Chief Freshwater Commissioner Peter Skelton is a leopard that has changed his locations.

Cantabrians will always remember Skelton as one of the government appointed commissioners appointed under the Environment Canterbury Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management Act 2010 to greatly expand the development of large scale irrigation schemes in Canterbury.

Canterbury’s iconic braided rivers were plundered by targeted dilution of the protections afforded by Canterbury’s existing National Water Conservation Orders (NWCOs) and the blocking of the completion of other NWCOs that were in play.

Skelton and his fellow appointed Ecan commissioners provided the “oversight” that has led Environment Canterbury’s freshwater disaster – toxic and unmanageable levels of nitrate in groundwater and lowland streams & rivers, and gross allocation of Canterbury’s freshwater for irrigation to the detriment of the region’s freshwater ecosystems.

It would be hard to find a more unlikely candidate for the office of Chief Freshwater Commissioner if protection of freshwater was the primary objective.

If however “robust and efficient freshwater planning” is the goal then he appears just the ticket.


Our people

Professor Peter Skelton CNZM

Chief Freshwater Commissioner

Judge Craig Thompson

Freshwater Commissioner

Andrew Fenemor

Freshwater Commissioner

Antoine Coffin

Freshwater Commissioner

Alec Neill

Freshwater Commissioner

Basil Morrison

Freshwater Commissioner

Gina Sweetman

Freshwater Commissioner

Dr Greg Ryder

Freshwater Commissioner

Dr Ian Boothroyd

Freshwater Commissioner

Kate McArthur

Freshwater Commissioner

Ron Crosby

Freshwater Commissioner

Rauru Kirikiri

Freshwater Commissioner

Mark St.Clair

Freshwater Commissioner

Dr Ngaire Phillips

Freshwater Commissioner

Rob van Voorthysen

Freshwater Commissioner

Sarah Ongley

Freshwater Commissioner

Sheena Tepania

Freshwater Commissioner


Our People

This set of Freshwater Commissioners comprised of past “Independent” Hearing Commissioners &/or “Expert Witnesses” from an industry of environmental consultants hiring  themselves out to advocate for corporate applications to exploit (public) freshwater resources  hardly inspires any confidence that New Zealand’s freshwater is in safe hands.

These are the (paid) guys and gals who have contributed to the series of unfortunate decisions that has led to the woeful state of New Zealand’s freshwater which has blown any credibility regarding our “Clean Green New Zealand” brand.


Dr Peter Trolove



[Canterbury angler of 60 for years, distraught about the present state of this regions freshwater]


Cattle duffers on a jury may be honest men enough, but they are bound to visit lightly sins of those that cattle duff       Melbourne Age 1880s


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8 Responses to The Freshwater Commission – a leap of leopards?

  1. "Deerstalker" says:

    Well history repeats itself they say.
    This excellent opinion piece by Peter Trolove reminds me of the words of John B Henderson, NZDA president in his 1969 conference address. Over fifty years ago!
    He said “The pollution law of this country is the product of frightened little men. ——-Frightened of the publicity that would allow an attempt at facing the problem squarely. Frightened of the cost of a clean up so vitally necessary. Frightened of the extent to which pollution texts right now. Frightened of the hard work required to rectify the position. Frightened to admit their past decisions and inactivity have given rise to that pollution.”

  2. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    No need to fuss about this very soon, as all aspects & ownership of water will be transferred to tribal control under the Puapua charter. Ardern is on the cusp of handing water to moedis.

  3. Larry Burke says:

    maybe just maybe as some of them have been responsible for the mess freshwater currently is, they are the best to fix it as they know what they did. Might be hopeful thinking but you have always have positive hope even with low expectations.

  4. Andrew Brown says:

    Remember back to early 2019 when a nation-wide Colmar Brunton poll showed 82 per cent of people surveyed were extremely or very concerned about the issue of freshwater pollution so much so it was the top concern, beating living costs and the health system. Four percent of the respondents said they were not that concerned with the pollution of lakes and rivers.
    Those four per cent were probably the polluters and MPs?
    Well Labour, Greens and NZ First in 2017 promised to address the deteriorating freshwater situation. That is four years ago. Nothing has been done and the situation has worsened.
    I have been impressed by the Federation’s work on nitrates exposing a shocking state. NZFFA rolled the sleeves up and got stuck in, while others sit back – on their hands.

  5. Alan+Rennie says:

    The Army and all SI councils received NKTIincs Email demanding a civil emergency be declared on our rivers and fresh water, it will be interesting to see their response ?

  6. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    the game is over. Hence forth we will pay to drink water or access it to fish, saltwater or fresh maori ownership will exclude all public from waters without fees being paid. Just imagine the cost burden to farmers & urban dwellings, when evgery drip has a cost going to already swollen moedi coffers.tHIS IS cash on tap, lyerally.
    This is a failed nation on the list with Zimbabwe, Rhodesia S A etc.
    Ardern is your ultimate enemy, the most destructive individual in NZ history.

  7. Predator Pete says:

    Bud Jones is partially correct;
    Rhodesia/Zimbabwe failed through mathematics and global politics – 8 million Africans vs. 200,000 whites with Britain applying sanctions to block Rhodesians access to arms to resist Chinese and Russian sponsored terrorism.
    The S A apartheid policy was simply indefensible.
    Yes Ardern is embarking on a divisive policy by reinventing history that has the potential to be very destructive to New Zealand.

  8. Grant Henderson says:

    Could be the MOTS principle applied here – more of the same.

    There will be no real change until people stop seeing the environment as something to be gouged for private profit. I believe in Oz they actually took water from irrigators and put it back into over-allocated rivers. Imagine that happening in NZ.

    The Murray-Darling Basin scandal has since intervened. Outright theft and corruption has occurred. Google “Cash Splash: Taxpayer dollars, secretive deals and the lucrative business of water | Four Corners” for details.

    For years, the Environ,ment Court (and commissioners) have had a ngarage sale mentality to all applications – somethibng for meveryone, no-one should leave empty-handed

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