Calls to grant seas le­gal rights

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JAMES PASLEY

Seas need to be given the same le­gal rights as peo­ple in or­der to pro­tect them from en­vi­ron­men­tal ruin, ex­perts say.

At a Univer­sity of Auck­land round­table dis­cus­sion last week ex­perts dis­cussed the fu­ture of the world’s seas, touch­ing on a num­ber of threats they faced in­clud­ing cli­mate change, acid­i­fi­ca­tion, over fish­ing, plas­tics and pol­lu­tion.

The fo­rum, com­prised of Auck­land’s Marine Science In­sti­tute di­rec­tor Si­mon Thrush, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor Nordin Has­san, and se­nior lec­tur­ers Rochelle Con­stan­tine and Dan Hikuroa, dis­cussed what could be done to help save the seas.

Hikuroa said that the next step in pro­tect­ing our oceans was to give them a le­gal per­son­al­ity.

A le­gal per­son­al­ity has all the rights, du­ties and li­a­bil­i­ties of a per­son but is not a hu­man be­ing.

In March the Whanganui River gained its own le­gal iden­tity. Leg­is­la­tion recog­nised the spir­i­tual con­nec­tion be­tween the Whanganui iwi and its ances­tral river.

The new sta­tus of the river meant if some­one abused or harmed the river the law would re­gard it as be­ing no dif­fer­ent as some­one caus­ing harm to the tribe.

A week af­ter the Whanganui River be­came a le­gal per­son­al­ity an In­dian court de­clared the Ganges and Ya­muna rivers in In­dia as liv­ing en­ti­ties.

The same sta­tus was granted to Te Urew­era, a for­mer na­tional park in 2014.

Hikuroa said it was time to ex­tend the le­gal con­cept to seas.

He said it wasn’t a co­in­ci­dence that the sea, char­ac­terised as a fe­male, came first in Maori’s cre­ation le­gend. Land and life came af­ter.

‘‘Give her a voice,’’ Hikuroa said.

He said the ques­tion should be how could a sea’s voice be heard and in­cluded in the de­ci­sions coun­tries made on its be­half.

Giv­ing seas a le­gal iden­tity would mean that seas could be pro­tected in courts.

New Zealand Cen­tre for En­vi­ron­men­tal Law di­rec­tor Klaus Bos­sel­mann said seas get­ting the same le­gal recog­ni­tion as peo­ple was a clear prospect.

In April he pre­sented to the United Na­tions on the is­sue and said it was be­com­ing more com­mon.

He said what was miss­ing was a clear voice to re­mind gov­ern­ments of the pos­si­bil­ity.

JAMES PASLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Dan Hikuroa says oceans need to be given a voice.

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