The Whanganui hapū and iwi relationship with the Whanganui River might be best summed up by the edict of the old people:


“Kaua e kōrero mo te Awa, me kōrero ki te Awa”

“Do not merely speak of the River, speak instead to the River.”


That is, relate to the River and seek its guidance in all things.


In March 2017 legislation was passed in Parliament establishing a unique legal status for the Whanganui River, that of Te Awa Tupua.


Legal Recognition of Te Awa Tupua 

At the heart of Ruruku Whakatupua – the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement - is the recognition of a new status for the River. The, Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act  2017 provides for the legal recognition of Te Awa Tupua as: “a living and indivisible whole comprising the Whanganui River from the mountains to the sea, incorporating its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements.” 



Te Awa Tupua is also recognised at law as a legal person with corresponding rights, powers, duties and liabilities. This legislation is of international significance and represents possibly the first instance where a natural resource – in this case the Whanganui River – has been recognised as having its own legal personality and rights. 


Those rights, enhance the relationship of all hapū and iwi of the Whanganui River catchment and guarantee the mana of each hapū and iwi to continue to speak for their interests. 

In doing so, the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017 establishes a framework at law to support the innate values of the Whanganui River practised by Whanganui hapū and iwi for centuries.


Four values, called Tupua Te Kawa, now guide all actions and decision making to provide for the health and well-being of both the River and its peoples.  


The paradigm shift from merely speaking about the River to actively speaking to the River as a community is powered by this new status and the time-honoured values of Tupua Te Kawa.

Access Ruruku Whakatupua - Te Mana o Te Iwi

Access Ruruku Whakatupua - Te Mana o Te Awa

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© 2019 The office of Te Pou Tupua