Under a landmark agreement signed in New Zealand, the Whanganui River has become a legal entity with a legal voice.
Under the agreement, signed between Whanganui River iwi and the Crown, the Whanganui will be recognised as a person under the law “in the same way a company is, which will give rights and interests”, Christopher Finlayson, a spokesperson for the Minister of Treaty Negotiations, told The New Zealand Herald.
The agreement, states the river, which is the third longest river in New Zealand, will have legal status under the name Te Awa Tupua. Two guardians, one from the Crown and one from a Whanganui River iwi, will be given the role of protecting the river.
A whole river strategy, in collaboration with iwi, local government and commercial and recreational users is still being decided.
An eventual settlement will also include monetary compensation for historical claims.
Minister for Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson said the agreement was an historic event.
"Whanganui River iwi have sought to protect the river and have their interests acknowledged by the Crown through the legal system since 1873. They pursued this objective in one of New Zealand's longest running court cases,” he told The New Zealand Herald.