New Zealand's Whanganui River Has Been Granted the Same Legal Rights as a Person


In what’s believed to be a world first, New Zealand’s government has granted a river the same rights as a living person.

The Whanganui River, considered part of the living landscape by the indigenous Whanganui Iwi people associated with it, has been granted legal personhood under a parliamentary bill, reports local news service Newshub. Two representatives from the local indigenous community — one appointed by the government, another elected by the community — will be entrusted with acting in the river’s interests.

The Whanganui Iwi have fought for this day for over 160 years, an indigenous MP told Radio New Zealand. “From a Whanganui viewpoint the wellbeing of the river is directly linked to the well-being of the people,” said Adtian Rurawhe, “and so it is really important that’s recognized as its own identity”

“I know some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality,” Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said, according to Newshub. “But it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies, or incorporated societies.”

In the precolonial era, the Whanganui River was a vital communication route for Maori people and it navigability attracted large-scale settlement in the Whanganui River valley. When colonists arrived, it was the most densely populated part of what is today called the North Island. For these reasons, the area is rich in Maori history and culture.

Will Lake Winnipeg follow

New Zealand's Whanganui River?


Lake Winnipeg needs us now

Ailing body of water gives life -- it's long past time to dive into saving her

By: Niigaan Sinclair Posted: 08/6/2019 4:00 AM 

… „In New Zealand, the Maori successfully convinced authorities to make the Whanganui River a "person" under domestic law. The river is a part of their creation story — a sacred site of life. The decision means that anything affecting the flow, shorelines and watershed of the Whanganui River must be legally considered by a committee of government and Indigenous representatives.

Recognizing waterways as beings with rights is not crazy. We do it for corporations. Today, businesses and people have more rights than nature — which I would suggest is what got us into this Lake Winnipeg mess in the first place.

In terms of contributing to our community, by the way, I’ll take Lake Winnipeg over any corporation, government or citizen.

Lake Winnipeg has given us more than we could ever give back. Now, it’s time to help her.

Declaring Lake Winnipeg a being with rights would be simple and, for the first time in North American history, legally recognize a relative who has taken care of our families, our food and our water.“…