The Whanganui River in North Island has been given the same rights as a human being, it has emerged today.
The river, which is worshipped by the indigenous Maori people, is the first natural entity on the planet to attain such status. The river's interests will now be protected by two individuals before any decisions which might affect it are passed.
One of these two representatives will come from the Maori tribes, who are known as the iwi, and the other will come from the Crown Court; and they will be called upon to represent in trial and court proceedings.
A spokesperson for the Maori tribes told the BBC that the native had been fighting for representation for the river for more than 160 years.
"I know the initial inclination of some people will say it's pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality," Chris Finlayson, the New Zealand Treaty Negotiations Minister, commented. "But it's no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies."
"The river as a whole is absolutely important to the people who are from the river and live on the river. From a Whanganui viewpoint the wellbeing of the river is directly linked to the wellbeing of the people and so it is really important that's recognised as its own identity," commented MP Adrian Rurawhe, who is a Maori representative in the New Zealand government.
As the verdict was announced, the celebrations began amonst the Maori people who had come to court to witness what they hoped was a landmark day. There were plenty of tears and an outburst of traditional song as they realised what a momentous occasion they were witnessing.
$30 million was also put aside to repair the health and wellbeing of the river, and to deal with any problems currently surrounding the river.