New Zealand Just Gave a River the Same Legal Rights as a Human Being


You do you, NZ.

Whanganui River

We’ve taken credit for a number of claims to fame that are actually from the fair isle(s) of New Zealand – Russell Crowe, Split Enz, Phar Lap – but, unfortunately for the eco-minded among us, we sadly can’t claim to be anywhere near as responsible when it comes to the Kiwi’s attitude to the environment.

In a world first, the Whanganui River on the North Island of New Zealand has been given the same legal status as a person, thanks to a bill passed by the NZ government. The river’s new legal identity will be accompanied by the same rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person, thanks to the long-fought battle, of over 170 years, that culminated in this decision.

Of sacred significance to the Iwi people, the river – known as Te Awa Tupua – will now be able to represent itself through an appointed Maori community member and a Crown representative.

“We have a chance to restore Te Awa Tupua to its life-giving essence and, in doing so, to gift back to the Whanganui River iwi their rightful obligations and responsibilities to the river that runs through their veins,” Maori party co-leader Marama Fox said.

The Crown will also contribute NZ$30 million to the health and wellbeing of the river.

Bridget de Maine

Staff Writer Collective Hub


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