September 17, 2012
Whanganui River granted legal identity
There is a fascinating story from New Zealand regarding an agreement between the government and the Whanganui River iwi (a group of Maori who live near the river) to grant the Whanganui River status as an entity under New Zealand law. "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'." The river will be protected by two guardians, one representing the Crown, and the other representing the iwi.
The Whanganui River is the third longest river on the North Island of New Zealand. It has been subject to ongoing court battles between the Crown and the Maori since at least 1873. The area around the Whanganui River was heavily populated by Maori prior to the arrival of the Europeans, and the mouth of the river became an important trading post and European settlement. Efforts have been made for the past several decades to dam the river for hydropower. Those efforts have been heavily contested by the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board and environmentalists.
Thank you to Dan Ernst for the story tip!
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And yet in New Zealand, the issue of whether it should be "Wanganui" or "Whanganui" gets far more attention...
There is a broader debate about water rights in New Zealand at the moment, including issues of ownership. There are some interesting dynamics at present for those interested in comparative resources law or comparative indigenous issues (or, especially, comparative indigenous resource issues).
Posted by: Thomas Gibbons NZ | Sep 25, 2012 5:59:58 PM