Can we begin to reconceptualize how we interact with Nature and afford it the legal protections that are now available only to people? Along with Bolivia and Ecuador, New Zealand appears to be in the vanguard of this fascinating, welcome trend.
In his blog about the Northern Territory of New Zealand, Bob Gosford reports that a court there “has recognised – perhaps for the first time in legal history – that a river has personality sufficient to allow it to be heard in a court of law.” (A tip of the hat to Tim Gregory for passing this news along.) Gosford cites reporter Kate Shuttleworth in the New Zealand Herald:
The Whanganui River will become an legal entity and have a legal voice under a preliminary agreement signed between Whanganui River iwi [“peoples” in Maori] and the Crown tonight. This is the first time a river has been given a legal identity. A spokesman for the Minister of Treaty Negotiations said Whanganui River will be recognised as a person when it comes to the law – “in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests” … Under the agreement the river is given legal status under the nameTe Awa Tupua – two guardians, one from the Crown and one from a Whanganui River iwi, will be given the role of protecting the river.