Fluid Personality: Indigenous Rights and the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017 in Aotearoa New Zealand (2019)
In March 2017, the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017 (NZ) (‘Te Awa Tupua Act’) became the first piece of legislation in the world to declare a river a legal person. Through this grant of legal personality the Whanganui River acquires the rights, duties, powers and liabilities of an entity with legal standing including the ability to sue those who harm it. This legislation is aimed at reconciling the relationship between the government of Aotearoa New Zealand and its Indigenous peoples (Māori) in light of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, one of the founding documents of Aotearoa New Zealand. However, the Te Awa Tupua Act also offers a platform to explore the promotion and protection of Indigenous rights in international human rights law including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples in relation to Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand. This inquiry demonstrates that despite the novelty of the legislation and the exciting progress towards re-establishing Māori governance and management over the River that they held for centuries before European colonisation, the innovative grant of legal personality to a river does not fully address past wrongs in that it continues to exclude Māori ownership of freshwater. Ultimately the Te Awa Tupua Act leaves Aotearoa New Zealand wanting in its commitments under international human rights law.
CitationEsterling S, Collins T (2019). Fluid Personality: Indigenous Rights and the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017 in Aotearoa New Zealand. Melbourne Journal of International Law. 20(1). 197-220.
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ANZSRC Fields of Research48 - Law and legal studies::4807 - Public law::480703 - Domestic human rights law
45 - Indigenous studies::4511 - Ngā tāngata, te porihanga me ngā hapori o te Māori (Māori peoples, society and community)::451115 - Te ture me te tika Māori (Māori law and justice)
45 - Indigenous studies::4511 - Ngā tāngata, te porihanga me ngā hapori o te Māori (Māori peoples, society and community)::451109 - Ngā tikanga Māori (Māori customary law)
48 - Law and legal studies::4804 - Law in context::480410 - Legal theory, jurisprudence and legal interpretation
48 - Law and legal studies::4806 - Private law and civil obligations::480604 - Property law (excl. intellectual property law)
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku / Māori Subject HeadingsTure | Laws::Tikanga tangata | Human rights; Rights, Human
Tikanga tuku iho | Values::Kaitiakitanga | Conservation of natural resources; Customary rights; Land stewardship; Rights, Customary; Stewardship, Land
Ture | Laws::Ture putaiao | Environmental laws
RightsAll rights reserved unless otherwise stated
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