New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being

by Eleanor Ainge Roy – The Guardian.com – 16 March 2017

Prince Harry paddled down the Whanganui river during a visit to New Zealand in 2015. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

After 140 years of negotiation, M?ori tribe wins recognition for Whanganui river, meaning it must be treated as a living entity

In a world-first a New Zealand river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.

The local M?ori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island has fought for the recognition of their river – the third-largest in New Zealand – as an ancestor for 140 years.

On Wednesday, hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law.

“The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have,” said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi [tribe].

“We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as in indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management.”
The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same.

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