Whanganui River In New Zealand Has Been Granted Legal Rights Of A Human Being.
Whanganui is a river in the North Island of New Zealand which is the 3rd longest river of the country. Starting from Mount Tongariro, the mighty river passes 290 kilometres and kisses the Tasman sea at Wanganui. Flowing through the Whanganui national park, the river has 239 rapids.
The river is the central point for the Maori tribe ‘Whanganui’. Ancestors of the Whanganui Iwi has lived their life around this river and have considered this river as a part of their life. The river provided them water, fish and means of transportation and nurtured the soil around. Whanganui iwi considered the river as an element of physical and spiritual well-being of their lives. Along the river, there are so many small settlements and the Maori population who live in these settlements make most out of their needs from the river. However, in today’s life, greater portion of Whanganui tribal members have moved to bigger cities but they still respect and connected with their ancestral river.
During the creation of Treaty of Waitangi, the final settlement between Maori and the Queen of the British Empire, the situation in Whanganui was muddy and rocky. The white skinned New Zealanders or known as Pakeha was not allowed to travel along the Whanganui river and for several years, there was not interaction between the Maori settlements on the river bank and the ruling New Zealanders. According to stories, after signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the river Whanganui was opened for public for transportation and seeing long lost Whanganui tribal citizens along the river had been a major tourist attraction for whites.
However, the Whanganui tribe was not happy about how the new governing party cares for their sacred river and been fighting to obtain its rightful rights for over 140 years. The tribe considers the river as an ancestor and wants the government and everyone else in New Zealand to think the same. This long law suit had been dragging for more than a century and finally earlier this year, the Government of New Zealand accepted the Whanganui river and granted the legal status as a living entity.
This new status allows the authority to penalise anyone who abuse, pollute, or damage the river in any mean considering it as harming the tribe or a person.
The river will be represented by both Maori and Kiwi parties, whenever required and hopefully the new status will help to minimize human manipulation of the natural river structure.
This new approach is a novel way of looking at environmental protection and considering the nature as another human being creates the emotional bond more. Hopefully, this would be trend that other countries would adapt soon.