Rights of Nature – changing the legal landscape

In 2017 New Zealand recognised a river and a forest as having ‘legal personhood’ rights, followed soon after by India and Colombia, in what is seemingly a pioneering legal development.

However ‘Rights of Nature’ laws have been developing for over 10 years. Ecuador was the first country to recognise Mother Nature as ‘a collective subject of public interest’ in 2008 and provide for series of rights in legislation. It was 2010 for Bolivia and earlier, 2006 for the USA. These three countries provided for rights under local borough laws similar to our local councils, which could be over ruled by state and federal government.

These are very different from the latest developments in New Zealand which give a legal personality to ‘ecosystems’, who are allocated a defined guardian to legally speak and have standing for that ecosystem in court.

The question of course is how will this impact on Australia’s legal landscape?

This year we have seen the residents of Margaret River in Western Australia advocate for special protections for the river, ‘Rights of the mountain’ rallies in Tasmania and Senator Mahreen Faruqui calling for Rights of Nature in Australia, so it will be very interesting to see which path we take.

Nikki Gibson

Nikki is a Director of Pacific Legal & Conveyancing where our vision is to provide technologically advanced, efficient, ethical legal services and conveyancing, which exceed our clients’ expectations.

Pacific Legal & Conveyancing


Photo attribution: Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania by jamesonf (2017)