Agreement entitles Whanganui River to legal identity
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By Kate Shuttleworth | New Zealand Herald | Thursday Aug 30, 2012
The Whanganui River will become an legal entity and have a legal voice under a preliminary agreement signed between Whanganui River iwi and the Crown tonight.
This is the first time a river has been given a legal identity.
A spokesman for the Minister of Treaty Negotiations said Whanganui River will be recognised as a person when it comes to the law - "in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests".
The agreement was signed on behalf of Whanganui iwi by Brendan Puketapu of the Whanganui River Maori Trust, which represents a group of iwi along the river, and the Crown in Parliament this evening.
Under the agreement the river is given legal status under the name Te Awa Tupua - two guardians, one from the Crown and one from a Whanganui River iwi, will be given the role of protecting the river.
An agreement between the Crown and local iwi on what the values will be in protecting the river are yet to be decided.
A whole river strategy, in collaboration with iwi, local government and commercial and recreational users is still being decided.
An eventual settlement will also include monetary compensation for historical claims.
Minister for Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson said the signing was an historic event.
"Whanganui River iwi have sought to protect the river and have their interests acknowledged by the Crown through the legal system since 1873. They pursued this objective in one of New Zealand's longest running court cases.
"Today's agreement which recognises the status of the river as Te Awa Tupua (an integrated, living whole) and the inextricable relationship of iwi with the river is a major step towards the resolution of the historical grievances of Whanganui iwi and is important nationally.
"The agreement does not signify the end of the settlement, but it is a significant step towards settlement. Matters of detail and additional redress will be to be negotiated between the parties," said Mr Finlayson.
"Whanganui Iwi also recognise the value others place on the river and wanted to ensure that all stakeholders and the river community as a whole are actively engaged in developing the long-term future of the river and ensuring its wellbeing," said Mr Finlayson.
History of the claims:
* Those parts of the Wai 167 claim relating to the Whanganui River were heard by the Waitangi Tribunal in 1994.
* The Tribunal issued its Whanganui River Report in 1999.
* The Crown vested authority and control of the Whanganui River in local authorities through the Resource Management Act in 1991.
* Negotiations between Whanganui iwi and the Crown in relation to the Whanganui River took place between 2002 and 2004.
* Discussions between Whanganui iwi and the Crown started again in 2009.
* A record of Understanding reached on October 13, 2011 outlined a framework for the next stage of formal negotiations.
* The final settlement including the deed of settlement in relation to the historical Treaty of Waitangi claims of Whanganui iwi in respect of the Whanganui River are yet to be decided.
New Zealand Grants a River the Rights of Personhood
TreeHugger | Stephen Messenger | September 8, 2012
From the dawn of history, and in cultures throughout the world, humans have been prone to imbue Earth’s life-giving rivers with qualities of life itself — a fitting tribute, no doubt, to the wellsprings upon which our past (and present) civilizations so heavily rely. But while modern thought has come to regard these essential waterways more clinically over the centuries, that might all be changing once again.
Meet the Whanganui. You might call it a river, but in the eyes of the law, it has the standings of a person.
In a landmark case for the Rights of Nature, officials in New Zealand recently granted the Whanganui, the nation’s third-longest river, with legal personhood “in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests”. The decision follows a long court battle for the river’s personhood initiated by the Whanganui River iwi, an indigenous community with strong cultural ties to the waterway.
Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity, under an arrangement in which representatives from both the iwi and the national government will serve as legal custodians towards the Whanganui’s best interests.
“Today’s agreement which recognises the status of the river as Te Awa Tupua (an integrated, living whole) and the inextricable relationship of iwi with the river is a major step towards the resolution of the historical grievances of Whanganui iwi and is important nationally,” says New Zealand’s Minister for Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson.
“Whanganui Iwi also recognise the value others place on the river and wanted to ensure that all stakeholders and the river community as a whole are actively engaged in developing the long-term future of the river and ensuring its wellbeing,” says Finlayson.
Although this is likely the first time a single river has been granted such a distinction under the law, chances are it’s not the last. In 2008, Ecuador passed similar ruling giving its forests, lakes, and waterways rights on par with humans in order to ensure their protection from harmful practices.
And, while it may seem an odd extension of rights, in many ways it harkens back to a time when mankind’s fate was more readily acknowledged as being intertwined with that of the rivers, lakes, and streams that sustained us — a time in which our purer instincts towards preserving nature needn’t be dictated by legislation.
Crown and Whanganui River iwi reach framework agreement
Russell McVeagh | Tim Clarke, Craig Shrive and Doug Bailey | Lexology
The Crown and Whanganui iwi have signed a framework agreement forming the basis for a settlement of historical claims relating to the Whanganui River.
This framework agreement sets out key elements of the settlement. In particular:
* the river will be given statutory recognition as "an indivisible and living whole, from the mountains to the sea, incorporating its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements";
* the river will be given legal personality and have legal standing, with the Crown and Whanganui iwi each appointing a person to exercise guardianship and act on behalf of the river; and
* a "Whole of River Strategy" will be developed by iwi, central and local government, commercial and recreational users and other stakeholders. Broadly, this will seek to ensure the longterm environmental, social, cultural and economic health and wellbeing of the river.
Whanganui iwi first filed their claim (Wai 167) with the Waitangi Tribunal in 1990. In its 1999 Whanganui River Report the Tribunal found, among other things, that:
* the river was a single and indivisible entity;
* Whanganui iwi possessed and held rangitiratanga over the river and had never sold their interests in it; and
* the Crown had expropriated the river (by way of the Coalmines Amendment Act 1903) without consultation or compensation and contrary to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Settlement negotiations between the Crown and Whanganui iwi occurred between 2002 and 2004, ending without agreement. They recommenced in 2009, leading to a Record of Understanding in October 2011 and last week's framework agreement.
Beyond the elements set out in last week's framework agreement, negotiations between the Crown and Whanganui iwi are yet to be completed. In particular, matters regarding cultural and financial redress and the Crown apology remain to be addressed.
Once these have been resolved and negotiations are concluded, a deed of settlement will be agreed to, enacted in legislation and ratified.
This settlement follows WaikatoTainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Act 2010, which provides for the comanagement of that river by iwi and the Waikato Regional Council.
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