The first river to have legal rights

The Whanganui River, Aotearoa / New Zealand, photo: Phil Robinson

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory

Wallace Heim writes:

For the first time, a river has been given a legal voice. The Whanganui Riverin New Zealandhas become a legal entity, and will be recognised as a person in law in the same way that a company is, giving it rights and interests.

The status of the river as Te Awa Tupua (an integrated, living whole) is a step in the resolution of historical grievances and court cases between the Whanganui iwi, the Maori peoples and nations living along the river, and the Crown. Two guardians, one from the Whanganui Riveriwi, and one from the Crown will be given the role of protecting the river.

In the UK, ‘rights’ generally means the right to access for humans to rivers, or the right to flood protection.

But many artists are negotiating the relations between human use and the free-running of rivers, navigating the values and affections towards rivers. Just now, among these are Multi-Story Water on the River Aire in Shipley and the River Frome in Bristol, and River Runs on the Thames near Oxford. Jem Southam is exhibiting photographs of the River Exe, investigating what makes or defines a river. Earlier this year, Flow turned the Tyne into music in Newcastle. And two decades ago, Still Waters uncovered the buried rivers of London.

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ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
The Ashden Directory is edited by Robert Butler and Wallace Heim, with associate editor Kellie Gutman. The Directory includes features, interviews, news, a timeline and a database of ecologically – themed productions since 1893 in the United Kingdom. Our own projects include ‘New Metaphors for Sustainability’, ‘Flowers Onstage’ and ‘Six ways to look at climate change and theatre’.

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