Whanganui River, Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Since the dawn of time people have personified Rivers. We think of them as beings and give the emotional qualities of humans to reflect their moods. they are placid, angry, meandering and lazy. However, we don’t accord them the rights of people or corporate bodies.  In a landmark case for the Rights of Nature, officials in New Zealand recently granted the Whanganui, the nation’s third-longest river, with legal personhood “in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests”.

The decision follows a long court battle for the river’s personhood initiated by the Whanganui River iwi, an indigenous community with strong cultural ties to the waterway. Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity, through an arrangement in which representatives from both the iwi and the national government will serve as legal custodians towards the Whanganui’s best interests. To find out more about this fascinating case click here…

Tom Sears, Australian National University