Te Urewera national park has been granted legal personhood, meaning nobody owns it. The park has the same rights and powers as a citizen. The ruling could set a new precedent for land rights and conservation around the world.
Can a national park be a person? pic.twitter.com/c98Y5pkp8y
— The Guardian (@guardian) September 5, 2016
The Māori Law Review article on Te Urewera Act 2014,
A new dawn for conservation management in Aotearoa New Zealand has arrived with the enactment of Te Urewera Act 2014. Te Urewera, named a national park in 1954 and most recently managed as Crown land by the Department of Conservation became Te Urewera on 27 July 2014: “a legal entity” with “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person” (section 11(1)). Te Urewera Act is undoubtedly legally revolutionary here in Aotearoa New Zealand and on a world scale.
Why Rights? (from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund),
Environmental degradation is advancing around the world. The United Nations has warned that we are heading toward “major planetary catastrophe.” There is a growing recognition that we must fundamentally change the relationship between humankind and nature.
Making this fundamental shift means recognizing our dependence on nature and respecting our need to live in harmony with the natural world. This means securing the highest legal protection on nature and sustainability. It means placing the highest societal value on ecosystems and a healthy planet. Recognizing rights of both humankind and nature to health and well-being helps achieve those legal protections and societal values.
We, the peoples and nations of Earth:
considering that we are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny;
gratefully acknowledging that Mother Earth is the source of life, nourishment and learning and provides everything we need to live well;
recognizing that the capitalist system and all forms of depredation, exploitation, abuse and contamination have caused great destruction, degradation and disruption of Mother Earth, putting life as we know it today at risk through phenomena such as climate change;
convinced that in an interdependent living community it is not possible to recognize the rights of only human beings without causing an imbalance within Mother Earth;
affirming that to guarantee human rights it is necessary to recognize and defend the rights of Mother Earth and all beings in her and that there are existing cultures, practices and laws that do so;
conscious of the urgency of taking decisive, collective action to transform structures and systems that cause climate change and other threats to Mother Earth;
proclaim this Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, and call on the General Assembly of the United Nation to adopt it, as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations of the world, and to the end that every individual and institution takes responsibility for promoting through teaching, education, and consciousness raising, respect for the rights recognized in this Declaration and ensure through prompt and progressive measures and mechanisms, national and international, their universal and effective recognition and observance among all peoples and States in the world.
World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 22, 2010 (full text)
In Bolivia you cannot make a decision that infringes on the rights of Mother Earth. If we have a constitution based on the rights of Papatūānuku then we will have no need to protest Statoil, because by its very nature it is infringing the mana of Papatūānuku.