After a 170 year-long battle and one of New Zealand’s longest-running litigations, the Whanganui River, sacred to the indigenous tribes of Whanganui and their descendants, now has rights similar to a person, and is recognized as “an indivisible and living whole.” Starting at Mount Tongariro in the central North Island and flowing to the Tasman Sea, the Whanganui is New Zealand’s longest navigable river.
The Te Awa Tupua Bill was passed by the New Zealand Parliament after the Whanganui fought for many years for the rights of the river, which is significant to their spiritual and physical wellbeing. The river has been used as a means of travel, and the Whanganui tribes built villages on its banks. Tourism has disrupted their traditional practices over the years.
The river will be represented by one person appointed by the New Zealand government, and another appointed by the Whanganui Iwi.The bill also acknowledges harm endured by the river over the years, and the settlement includes an $80 million financial redress, according to Newshub.
More than 200 people gathered and sang songs as the bill was passed.