New Zealand’s Whanganui River has become the first river in the world to be recognised as a living entity with the legal status of a person. New Zealanders have been joking about whether the river might now vote, buy a few beers  since it’s well over the legal drinking age, or be charged with murder if a swimmer drowns!

Peter Jackson used this river as the location for ‘Mordor’ in his three ‘Lord of the Rings’ films.

On March 15th this year, New Zealand’s parliament passed a bill to allow the Whanganui River to represent its own interests and advocate on its own behalf in the sense that it can own property, incur debts and petition the courts, along with having the duties and liabilities of a legal person. (it’s true!) The new bill acknowledges the river as a “living whole”, rather than trying to carve it up, finally settling an ownership dispute that has dragged on for 140 years. read more