Mt Taranaki given Same Legal Rights as a Person
The sacred mountain in the North Island is the third geographic feature in the country to be granted a “legal personality” entitled the same legal rights as a person, Eleanor Ainge Roy reports for the Guardian.
Eight local Maori tribes and the government will share guardianship of Mount Taranaki on the west coast of the North Island, in a long-awaited acknowledgement of the indigenous people’s relationship to the mountain, who view it as an ancestor and whanau, or family member.
The new status of the mountain means if someone abuses or harms it, it is the same legally as harming the tribe.
In the record of understanding signed this week, Mount Taranaki will become “a legal personality, in its own right”, said the Minister for Treaty Negotiations, Andrew Little, gaining similar rights to the Whanganui River, which was granted legal personhood earlier this year.
Little said the agreement offered the best possible protection for the landmark, which is becoming an increasingly popular tourist attraction after Lonely Planet named the Taranaki region the second best place to visit in the world last year.
“As a New Plymouth local I grew up under the gaze of the maunga so I’m particularly pleased with the respect accorded to local tangata whenua and the legal protection and personality given to the mountain,” Little said.
As part of the agreement the New Zealand government will apologise to local Maori for historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi against the mountain, although local tribes will receive no financial or commercial redress.
The chief negotiator for Taranaki iwi, Jamie Tuuta, told Fairfax the agreement was significant for Maori people nationwide.
“It [Mount Taranaki] provides that sense of place, social association and identity,” Tuuta said.
Mount Taranaki is 120,000 years old and is the country’s most perfectly formed dormant volcano, last erupting in 1775. It is also thought to be New Zealand’s most frequently climbed mountain.
Original article by Eleanor Ainge Roy, The Guardian, Friday 22, 2017.
Photo by David Frampton.