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New Zealand's Whanganui River
New Zealand’s Whanganui River

New Zealand’s Whanganui River has gained its own identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person, after a 170-year battle, the media reported on Thursday.

Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill, which passed its third reading in Parliament on Wednesday, will establish a new legal framework for the river, stuff.co.nz reported.

It recognised the river as an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the sea.

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The river is a sacred and revered waterway to New Zealand’s Maori Iwi people and its interests will now be represented by an Indigenous group.

Among other things, the river could now be represented in court proceedings, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said.

“I know the initial inclination of some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality.

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“But it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies,” The New Zealand Herald quoted Finlayson as saying.

Long revered by New Zealand’s Maori people, the river’s interests will now be represented by two people.

The Whanganui River Deed of Settlement was signed in 2014 and legislation was introduced in 2016.