People now slip behind rivers in order of importance

The Whanganui River now has all the rights and duties of a legal person.

The Whanganui River now has all the rights and duties of a legal person.

OPINION: How many times have we heard the expression "What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, people, people."

Not any more it seems. The Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill, which passed its third reading in Parliament last week recognising the Whanganui River as a legal person, certainly makes a mockery of it.

The Bill gives the river all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. It's not the first time this situation has arisen because it was used for the Te Urewera National Park in the central North Island when that was given the same status. The rights and wrongs of that decision can be argued until the cows come home, but it does beg the question that if a river or a park can be a legal person, can a legal person be a river or a park? If I wanted to register myself with the Geographic Board, will the Department of Conservation or Taranaki Regional Council come and look after me in my fast-approaching dotage? Of course not because it's a totally ludicrous situation when natural resources have the same rights as a person.

But my first question remains regarding what is most important because it seems the Te Urewera National Park and the Whanganui River are now more important than some people purely because they can be represented in court as a legal entity in their own right and have legal redress for whatever befalls them.

So what about a foetus? That's an unborn person. An unborn person with a functioning brain and all the vital organs, fingers, toes and developing character that just needs time and love to be born and become a legal person. An unborn person with a beating heart who can be aborted, terminated, killed off almost at will it seems then thrown down the sink or incinerated. Where are their rights to be represented in court with all the rights accorded to a bloody river or park? What's most important now? It's certainly not people is it?

When will we see case law that cites the same rights accorded to the Whanganui River or the Te Urewera National Park given to an unborn child? Perhaps it's time to review the abortion law but far from liberalising it, tighten it up so that the most important thing really is people, people, people.


 - Stuff

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