My dissertation notes that
In 2014 the Te Urewera Act similarly established an 821-square-mile forest, the ancestral homeland and ‘living ancestor’ of the Tühoe people, as a legal person. The Act states that ‘Te Urewera has an identity in and of itself’ with ‘legal recognition in its own right’ as ‘a legal entity’ with ‘all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person’. Te Urewera holds title to itself, with representation by a board – its guardians.A media release regarding the 2017 Act states
Whanganui Iwi have today closed the book on over a century-and-a-half of struggle for appropriate recognition for the Whanganui River, and appropriate acknowledgement of their longstanding relationship with it.
Over 200 descendants of Whanganui Iwi witnessed Parliament pass the Te Awa Tupua Bill into law, which gives the river legal personality and standing in its own right and enshrines in law and protects its rights and innate values.
“Since the mid-1850s Whanganui Iwi have challenged the Crown’s impact on the health and wellbeing of the river and those who lived on it, and have fought to have their rights and their relationship with the River recognised,” said Gerrard Albert, the Chairperson of Nga Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui.
“Eighty years ago Whanganui Iwi started what was to become the longest running court case in New Zealand history over who owned the bed of the river. It has been a long, hard battle.
“We have always believed that the Whanganui River is an indivisible and living whole – Te Awa Tupua – which includes all its physical and spiritual elements from the mountains of the central North Island to the sea.”
Mr Albert said the passing of the Te Awa Tupua Bill and the legal recognition of the Whanganui River with its own legal personality reflects this.
Te Awa Tupua will have its own rights and innate values and its own voice of representation. In the near future the Crown and Iwi of the River will jointly appoint two persons to the role of Te Pou Tupua; who will be charged with upholding the River’s interests and protecting its health and wellbeing.
“I acknowledge the seven iwi whose collective mana is represented by Te Awa Tupua and who were represented at Parliament today. I look forward to us all working together.
“This new legal status will be central to future decision-making,” said Mr Albert.
“It binds the Iwi of the river, the Crown and the many other communities of the Whanganui River to work together for the ultimate benefit and wellbeing of the River.”
Mr Albert said there is still a great deal to be done to give form and function to Te Awa Tupua and Whanganui Iwi looks forward to working closely with other iwi, local government, the Crown and other parties with an interest in the future of the River.
“It has taken us a century-and-a-half to get to this point. We will take a steady, calm and methodical approach to the next steps.