New Zealand river granted same rights as human being

For the first time in history, a river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.

The Māori tribe of New Zealand has long fought for the law to recognize the Whanganui river as a living being.

According to The Guardian, hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have the body of water, which they consider an ancestor, received the recognition they believe it deserves.

"The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have," said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi [tribe] in a statement.

"We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as in indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management."

The new status implies that if someone were to abuse or harm the river, the law would treat it in the same way they would if a human being were abused or harmed.

Chris Finlayson, the minister for the treaty of Waitangi negotiations, said the decision brought the longest-running litigation in New Zealand's history to an end.

"The approach of granting legal personality to a river is unique ... it responds to the view of the iwi of the Whanganui river which has long recognised Te Awa Tupua through its traditions, customs and practice," he said in a statement.

Two guardians will be appointed to act on behalf of the Whanganui river -- one from the government, and one from the Whanganui iwi.

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