The Whanganui river, with the rights of a person


In 2012, following more than a century of petitions and legal action by local iwi (Maori tribal group), the Whanganui river in New Zealand was granted the legal status of a person under the name Te Awa Tupua. This legal victory means that the river now enjoys the same rights and responsibilities before the law as people (and corporations!). The New Zealand government has officially recognised the river as a source of great physical and spiritual sustenance to the people who live alongside it. This precedent-setting legal case is the first time the rights of a river have been guaranteed in this way, opening up exciting possibilities for protecting, and changing how we understand our relationship with, the natural world.

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