Wellington, March 16: 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.
To be represented in court proceedings
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.
All photographs: Wikimedia Commons
Pretty strange? Apparently not!
"I know the initial inclination of some people will say it's pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality.
"But it's no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies," The New Zealand Herald quoted Finlayson as saying.
Country's longest navigable river
Long revered by New Zealand's Maori people, the river's interests will now be represented by two people.
With a length of 290 kilometres, the Whanganui is the country's third-longest river. Much of the land to either side of the river's upper reaches is part of the Whanganui National Park, though the river itself is not part of the park.
A mostly difficult river
The Whanganui River Deed of Settlement was signed in 2014 and legislation was introduced in 2016.The Whanganui River has always been an important communication route to the central North Island, both for Māori and for settlers.
It is, however, also a difficult river, with many stretches of white water and over 200 rapids. Despite this,for many years, it was the principal route to the interior.