For the first time in history, a natural resource has been given a legal personality and human rights. On March 15, 2017, New Zealand's parliament passed a bill proclaiming Whanganui River as "a living entity."
As New Zealand's third-largest river at 180 miles long, Whanganui River is located in the North Island. It has been long regarded as sacred by the the native Maori population and will now be granted human rights. For example, in court proceedings, the river will be appointed legal representation both from the Maori tribe and the Crown.
Adrian Rurawhe, who has close ties with the Maori, said: "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 recognised as its own identity."
The Maori have been trying for over 160 years to get the river recognized, mainly due to unnecessary exploitation. Now, if the river is damaged, the transgressor will be punished as if they were harming one of the Maori peoples.
As for the damages already done to the river? The Crown has promised to pay NZ$80 million, as well as NZ$1 million to dedicate towards establishing the personhood of the river.
What do you think? Is granting the NZ river legal status is justified in this case?