Treaty rights: Whanganui River, Te Awa Tupua, now a legal person

(above: Treaty of Waitangi poster by the Human Rights Commission New Zealand)

The Parliament on March 15, passed Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill through its third reading, which will establish a new legal framework for the Whanganui River, Te Awa Tupua. It recognises the river as an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the sea. Te Awa Tupua will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person.

“Whanganui Iwi has fought for recognition of its relationship with the Whanganui River since the 1870’s. Today brings the longest running litigation in New Zealand’s history to an end," said Christopher Finlayson, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.  

“The approach of granting legal personality to a river is unique. It responds to the view of the iwi of the Whanganui River which has long recognised Te Awa Tupua through its traditions, customs and practise," he added.