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A River In New Zealand Has Officially Been Granted Rights As A Human Being

In what is incredible news for the Māori tribe of Whanganui in New Zealand, their river has been the world’s first natural resource to be officially classified as a human being.

The Whanganui river is the third largest in the country and runs through the country’s North Island for almost 290 kilometres. The Whanganui iwi have been embroiled in a legal battle for over 150 years to allow for the river to be classified as a living entity. This means that if any harm is done to the river, the group or person responsible will be punished as if they have harmed a member of the tribe.

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Photo: Stephen Levin/Flickr

The bill passed in Parliament describes the river as “an indivisible and living whole comprising the Whanganui River from the mountains to the sea”. It also acknowledges and offers an apology for the damages previously committed to the river by the government. From now on, the interests of the river will be represented by a member of the tribe and a member of parliament.

Whanganui River

This kind of formal acknowledgement is huge for the Maori people of New Zealand who consider their natural surroundings an essential part of their spirituality. Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi told the Guardian, “The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have”.

The Whanganui River has long been used as a tool for navigation and also boasts a dedicated National Park. The park is well worth a visit for anyone travelling to the North Island. It’s perfect for kayaking, hiking, picnics and for general wide-eyed gazing at the big, majestic river.

(Lead photo: Department of Conservation/Flickr)