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Whanganui River in New Zealand First to Receive Same Legal Rights Like a Living Human Being

Mar 17, 2017 05:16 PM EDT
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The third longest river in New Zealand was awarded its own legal entity allowing it to be represented in court. The Maori people lobbied for more than 150 years for the river to be recognized.
(Photo : Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

What used to be a typical stream of clean water is now the talk of the town after a river in New Zealand was awarded a legal entity giving it similar rights like that of a living human being. The Whanganui River is the first river to become a 'person' in terms of rights in the whole world.

However, the latest ruling should not cause a confusion as the new legal entity basically allows the river to be represented in court. The Whanganui River now possesses its own rights, just like humans do. The decision was made after the Maori tribe lobbied for more than 160 years to give the river its rights to be represented in court.

"The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have," Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui tribe said in a statement.

Well, it basically means that the Whanganui River can be represented in court. It also has rights and values like we do. The tribes' people call the river Te Awa Tupua and it is known as one of the longest rivers in New Zealand.

The bill awarding rights to the river passed its third reading last Wednesday, March 15, 2017, and is called "Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill', according to a report.

It may sound absurd to some, but the Maori people consider the river a living entity long before it has been awarded its own rights. To them, there's a sacred spiritual connection between the tribe and the river.

"The river as a whole is absolutely important to the people who are from the river and live on the river," Adrian Rurawhe, a representative of the Maori people said in an interview with BBC. "From a Whanganui viewpoint the wellbeing of the river is directly linked to the wellbeing of the people and so it is really important that's recognized as its own identity."

A court case involving the Whanganui River has already earned money to keep the river healthy. This, in turn, is also expected to help the Maori people enjoy a more comfortable way of life.


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