New Zealand declares a river a person

 The law acknowledges the river as a “living whole”, rather than trying to carve it up, putting to rest an ownership dispute that has dragged on for 140 years. 

The law acknowledges the river as a “living whole”, rather than trying to carve it up, putting to rest an ownership dispute that has dragged on for 140 years. 

IT SOUNDS, admits Chris Finlayson, like a “pretty nutty” idea. Yet the new law that declares the Whanganui river, New Zealand’s third-longest, a legal person, in the sense that it can own property, incur debts and petition the courts, is not unprecedented. Te Urewera, an area of forested hills in the north-east that used to be a national park, became a person for legal purposes in 2014.