New Zealand Grants a River the Rights of Personhood
Condensed by Native Village
New Zealand: Throughout time,
cultures across the world have regarded Earth’s life-giving rivers
as living beings. In modern times, humans have a more
clinical view. That might be changing once again.
Meet the Whanganui. You might call it a river, but in the eyes of
the law, it has the standings of a person.
In a landmark case for the Rights of Nature, New
Zealand has granted
the Whanganui with legal personhood "in the same way a company is,
which will give it rights and interests”.
decision follows a long court battle initiated by the Whanganui River iwi, an
indigenous community with strong cultural ties to the waterway.
Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity. Representatives from both the iwi
and the government will serve as legal custodians.
"Today’s agreement which recognizes the status of the river as Te
(an integrated, living whole)," said Christopher Finlayson,
New Zealand Treaty Minister. "... The inextricable
relationship of iwi with the river is a major step towards the
resolution of the historical grievances of Whanganui iwi and is
“Whanganui Iwi also recognize the value others place on the river
and wanted to ensure that all stakeholders and the river
community as a whole are actively engaged in developing the
long-term future of the river and ensuring its wellbeing.”
This may be the first time a single river has been granted such
legal distinction, but it may not be the last. In 2008, Ecuador
gave its forests, lakes, and waterways
rights on par with humans to protect them from
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