Wonders they say shall never end! In what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind move, the Whanganui River in New Zealand has been granted the same status as a person. This means the river will have its own legal identity “with all the corresponding right, duties and liabilities of a legal person”. This, apparently is good news for the local Maori people who’ve tried for a century to have their relationship with the water body acknowledged by the government.
Under the Whanganui River Claims Settlement Bill, two people will act and speak on behalf of the river. They’ll work to promote and protect its health and well-being. The government and the iwi will pick the two.
“This is actually a really good way of ensuring that the particular resource is able to have representative to address the kind of environmental degradation that so many natural resources suffer from,” said New Zealand Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson.
The river is New Zealand’s longest navigable river, stretching 180 miles (290 kilometers) from Mount Tongariro to the Tasman Sea. The iwi have pursued claims and sought protection of the river since the 1870s.