The purpose of this paper is to describe and critically review the new tenure arrangements that have been established to recognise Māori relationship with land (Te Urewera) and river (Whanganui River), to ascribe them their own legal personality.
The paper describes the development of the legal arrangements in Aotearoa, New Zealand, for Treaty settlements with Māori, and documents the various forms of rights and divisions of space that are changing the face of property institutions.
The paper finds that the acknowledgement of land and nature as having their own legal status and, therefore, owned by themselves is bold and innovative, but is still not a full recognition of customary tenure. The recognition of rivers as indivisible entities is stated but not clearly implemented.
Māori interests and authority are now more clearly articulated, and Māori may expect to be able to engage in customary practices and restore their traditional relationships with their land more explicitly.
The avoidance of an ownership regime has tempered public concerns about issues such as ownership of flowing water. The formalities are still being completed in the case of the Whanganui River, so the full implications are yet to be felt.
This is an innovative development in tenure arrangements seen by some as providing for the rights of nature, but actually responding to the rights of the Indigenous people. This article may inform others about possible models for more diverse tenure arrangements elsewhere.
The author wishes to thank his close colleague Dr David Goodwin for his insightful critique of the early draft of this paper, and the two unknown reviewers for their suggestions to engage more explicitly with postcolonial theory.
Strack, M. (2017), "Land and rivers can own themselves", International Journal of Law in the Built Environment, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 4-17. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLBE-10-2016-0016Download as .RIS
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