The Whanganui River is the guide and leader

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View here to see online version of the book above

Some of you may know that I’m back in New Zealand after presenting at the conference in Melbourne to spend time with my family. I always treasure the time I have back home and hadn’t been thinking here of my work much at all although I must thank my cousin Bern in Trentham, Australia for taking me out after the conference to Wombat Forest (the state forest of Victoria) and also to Hanging Rock (yes, the Hanging Rock of the film Picnic at Hanging Rock – I was stunned to find myself wandering around this magnificent natural site like Miranda!).

However yesterday I got a message from my ASLEC-NZ colleague Charles Dawson, who has worked for many years on the legal side of enacting NZ/Aotearoa’s Treaty of Waitangi for recognition of Maori peoples’ rights to their lands (and his father was a lawyer working for iwi (Maori tribes) before him), that a historic agreement with the NZ government had been reached in regards to one of NZ’s major rivers, the Whanganui River, on the 30 August 2012. This achievement is of international importance too, in regards to safeguarding the Whanganui river in its own right and for all communities, the human and the more-than human communities who depend on it (and  thereby preventing ecocide too). For the first time in NZ, and I expect this is a first internationally too, the Whanganui River has been given rights equivalent to a person! You can read more here from our newspapers here, New Zealand Herald and the Whanganui ChronicleChris Freemantle of Ecoartscotland was quick off the mark to review this as a  historic step too and how for the first time a river has the same rights as many of our corporations.

Charles told me that the New Zealand government’s newly accepted document (see full text here DocumentLibrary_WhanganuiRiverAgreement) emphasises that the Whanganui River ‘is the guide and leader: not the government, not iwi (Maori tribes), but the Awa Tupua (river) first’.

My mother and I were excited to hear this news in particular as we have a strong family connection to this major river in the north island of New Zealand. My great Grandmother, Annie Cowie (nee Cowper), was one of the first European to settle on a farm in the remote upper reaches of this river. Last year I helped publish an online book with my mother for her 75th birthday commemorating Annie but also sharing Annie’s significant artistic record of her time in this remote area in the 1890’s (my mother is sure that I get my artistic interests from Annie).

See Annie’s paintings of the Whanganui River in 1890s here as a slideshow

Kei te pai Awa Tupua Whanganui! (Congratulations to the Whanganui River) and thanks to my mother for safeguarding our family history too

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PS for cinephiles here is the link to Peter Weir’s The Picnic at Hanging Rock 1975 film trailer

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