The New Zealand government is planning on giving the country’s third largest river the same rights as a citizen. It’s part of a legal revolution recognising the Maori connection to the environment and shifting assumptions about human control of the natural world. Until 2014, Te Urewera in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand’s North Island was a national park. The Act removed the land’s national park status and granted it legal personhood, giving it the same rights as any citizen.
Professor Jacinta Ruru laughs when she describes the Te Urewera Act as a ‘beautiful piece of legislation’. It certainly isn’t your average piece of legalese.’This new act that moves that Te Urewera land from the national park regime puts it into its own place because it owns itself. Maori don’t own, the New Zealand government doesn’t own this land. It is its own person, it cannot be owned.’
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