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A New Approach to Protecting Ecosystems: The Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Christopher Rodgers



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


The Te awa Tupua (Whanganui River Settlement) Act 2017 settled the longest running litigation over Maori land claims in New Zealand history. The Whanganui is New Zealand's longest navigable river, and the 2017 Act confers legal personality on the river system itself, giving it a unique legal status that recognises not only the need to protect the ecosystem that it represents, but also to provide a legal forum in which to implement Maori cultural and spiritual attitudes to the relationship between land and people. This is a new and innovative approach to protecting ecosystems at the landscape scale, but it does not represent the first time this approach has been used in New Zealand legislation. The article considers the 2017 Act, and sets it in its specific New Zealand legal context. It compares the approach taken in the New Zealand legislation with that in English Law, where the protection of habitats and species is heavily conditioned by an approach focussed instead to property rights.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rodgers CP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Law Review

Year: 2017

Volume: 19

Issue: 4

Pages: 266-279

Print publication date: 01/12/2017

Online publication date: 07/12/2017

Acceptance date: 14/11/2017

Date deposited: 11/12/2017

ISSN (print): 1461-4529

ISSN (electronic): 1740-5564

Publisher: Sage Publishing


DOI: 10.1177/1461452917744909


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