A river in New Zealand has become the first in the world to be recognised as a living entity with its own rights and values and given the legal status of a person, New Zealand news service Newshub reports .
The Whanganui River, located in the north island of New Zealand, has a special and spiritual importance for the Maori people.
The New Zealand Parliament has just passed a bill which gives the river the ability to represent itself through human representatives, one appointed by a Maori community, known as Iwi, and one by the Crown.
The new status of the Whanganui River, or Te Awa Tupua, is believed to be unique in the world. The Maori people recognise the river as part of the living mountains and the sea.
Here's a photo I took yesterday of the Whanganui River. Let's make sure this isn't the norm by 2040. Wai Ora, Whenua Ora, Tangata Ora. pic.twitter.com/NrgsvK959r— Te Kawa Robb (@TKRobb) February 23, 2017
Chris Finlayson, who negotiated the treaty, said the Whanganui Iwi had fought for recognition of the people’s relationship with the river since the 1870s.
"Te Awa Tupua will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person," he told Newshub. "I know some people will say it's pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality, but it's no stranger than family trusts, or companies, or incorporated societies."
The legal bill at the end of the long-running case includes an $80m financial redress while the government will also contribute $30m to a fund for looking after the river’s health and wellbeing.