New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being

Thursday 16 March 2017 00.50 EDT

In a world-first a New Zealand river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.

The local Māori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island has fought for the recognition of their river – the third-largest in New Zealand – as an ancestor for 140 years.

On Wednesday, hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law.

“The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have,” said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi [tribe].

“We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as in indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management.”

The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same.

Chris Finlayson, the minister for the treaty of Waitangi negotiations, said the decision brought the longest-running litigation in New Zealand’s history to an end. “Te Awa Tupua will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person,” said Finlayson in a statement.

“The approach of granting legal personality to a river is unique … it responds to the view of the iwi of the Whanganui river which has long recognised Te Awa Tupua through its traditions, customs and practice.”


Two guardians will be appointed to act on behalf of the Whanganui river, one from the crown and one from the Whanganui iwi.

Albert said all Māori tribes regarded themselves as part of the universe, at one with and equal to the mountains, the rivers and the seas.

The new law now honoured and reflected their worldview, he said, and could set a precedent for other Māori tribes in New Zealand to follow in Whanganui’s footsteps.

“We can trace our genealogy to the origins of the universe,” said Albert. “And therefore rather than us being masters of the natural world, we are part of it. We want to live like that as our starting point. And that is not an anti-development, or anti-economic use of the river but to begin with the view that it is a living being, and then consider its future from that central belief.”

Financial redress of NZ$80m is included in the settlement, as well as an additional NZ$1m contribution towards establishing the legal framework for the river.


Australians Survived a 13-Year Drought

If you think California’s four-year drought is apocalyptic, try 13 years. That’s how long southeastern Australia suffered through bone-dry times.

But it survived. When the so-called Millennium Drought ended in 2009, residents of Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, were using half the amount of water they had when it began.

A group of researchers from the University of California, Irvine, set out to investigate how Melbourne, a city of 4.3 million people, dramatically cut water consumption, and whether the city’s experience might hold lessons for California and other drought-stricken regions.

The short answer? Salvation came from a $2,000 rainwater tank rather than a $6 billion desalinization plant.

As the Millennium Drought dragged on, authorities approved the construction of costly infrastructure projects similar to those now being considered in California, including that expensive desalinization plant. But the researchers found that conservation and recycling were the keys that got Melbourne through year after rainless year.

The study appeared Tuesday in the journal WIREs Water.

Melbourne residents took advantage of government rebates for home rainwater tanks to capture runoff from roofs, using it to water plants and flush toilets. The state of Victoria also changed the building code to require the tanks in all new homes.

By 2009, about a third of homes were capturing free water from the sky and supplying 2 percent of Melbourne’s potable water.

The government also offered subsidies for purchase of water-efficient showerheads, toilets, and washing machines, which combined cut Melbourne’s water use by 4 percent a year.

Since more stormwater runoff courses through the city and flows into rivers and the ocean than residents use in a year, the government moved to capture, treat, and reuse some runoff for irrigation. The city also ramped up the use of gray water and recycled water from sewage treatment plants.

RELATED: The Billions of Gallons of Water Wasted by Accident Every Year

As in California, Melbourne officials restricted how often residents could water their lawns but did not raise water rates.

As for that $6 billion desalinization plant, today it serves as a very expensive insurance policy against the return of dry times. The facility was completed in 2012—three years after the drought ended—and has not produced a drop of water.

“The main lesson is that a lot can be done with conservation, and there are so many ways to do that,” said Stanley Grant, a study co-author and a civil and environmental engineer at UC Irvine.

“In Southern California, we’re addicted to technology. We expect aqueducts to save us, and those days are gone,” he said. “The modern-day answer people are looking to is desalinization, but that is expensive and very energy-intensive.”

Grant said some of Australia’s low-tech solutions, such as rainwater tanks, would have limited utility in California’s Mediterranean climate, where rain comes, if at all, during a few months in winter.

“The real problem is in the summer when you need the water, it has rained six months earlier,” he said.

Capturing storm water and what Grant calls “urban slobber”—dry-weather runoff—holds more promise. “The ultimate source of urban slobber in a lot of cases is imported water,” he said. “That water ends up finding its way to rivers through sewage treatment plants, overwatering of lawns, washing of cars, and other activities in the urban landscape.”

“It seems to be a real missed opportunity,” he added. “It’s a year-round source, but we don’t do anything to capture and reuse it.”

Some cities in California already are tapping treated wastewater for irrigation. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California approved paying homeowners as much as $6,000 to rip out their water-thirsty lawns and plant drought-tolerant landscaping.

The key, said Grant, is to seize the moment to make lasting changes in residents’ behavior as Melbourne apparently has done.

“One lesson for other cities is that major droughts, if serious enough and long-lasting enough,” the study states, “create opportunities for policymakers, as well as pose challenges.”


6 questions about Nike’s water-less fabric dyeing technology

By Allan Brettman | on December 03, 2013 at 12:07 PM


Nike on Tuesday introduced machinery that can dye fabric without using water.


The technology could dramatically alter the resource-gobbling process currently used to dye fabric. The introduction, at a contract factory in Taiwan, was the latest step in the water-less, fabric-dyeing path for the world’s largest footwear and apparel brand.


Here are six questions The Oregonian posed to Oregon-based Nike on Tuesday about the announcement and technology, answered by Delwyn Hudson, global director, corporate communications, sustainable business and innovation.

Q: Nike announced a partnership last year with DyeCoo Textile Systems B.V. Was this DyeCoo’s technology that has been used in the factory Taiwan?


A: Nike worked with DyeCoo to maximize R&D learnings from their first-generation machine to take the technology to the next level.


Q: Was the dyeing process shown on Tuesday (Taiwan time; it was Monday night, Pacific time) for demonstration only with commercial applications in 2014?


A: While R&D is our immediate focus, the machine is already being used to dye material for commercial use.


Q: What products will be dyed with this technology in 2014? What percentage of Nike fabric-dyeing is expected in the first year with this technology? And what are the projections for upcoming years?


A: We will have Nike ColorDry product in the market in early 2014. We don’t disclose product specifics until they are launched. Nike’s focus is on long-term scale across our supply chain and product lines and ColorDry is one of several manufacturing innovations. Nike Flyknit is another great example of game-changing technology.


Q: Earlier this year, GreenPeace alleged Nike, Adidas, Li-Ning of China and other brands had been too slow in implementing production changes to reduce environmental impact. Was the announcement event motivated at all by the GreenPeace criticism?


A: No. We have been communicating key milestones in our waterfree innovation journey, including in Chief Operating Officer Eric Sprunk’s remarks at Nike Inc.’s recent investor day. Here are links to some other announcements: Nike announces strategic partnership to scale waterless dyeing technology; Kenyan marathon champion to wear Nike uniform of innovative sustainable materials; and Nike welcomes Ikea as key partner in innovative waterless dyeing system.


Q: What Nike executives attended the event in Taiwan?


A: Mike Yonker, NIKE Inc. VP of Innovation and members of Nike’s advanced R&D function.


Q: How much more or how much less does this waterless dyeing process cost compared to a water-intensive process?


We’re not disclosing specifics on costs however the process offers a range of efficiencies: Zero water used to dye fabric, reduces energy usage by 60+% and reduces time to dye by around 40%. Exhaustion rate (use) of dye in ColorDry is nearly 100% compared to 80-90% for traditional dyeing and when you remove water from the dyeing process you remove the need for additional process chemicals, which helps us deliver on our commitment to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.


— Allan Brettman


Short video highlighting major pollution of Chinese surface water by textile manufacturers and their traditional dyeing processes.

UPDATE: VICTORY! UN Voting 7/28 on Right to Water

The UN took an historic vote on July 28 when it passed a resolution introduced by Bolivia on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.  Thanks to all  who left messages for the Ambassador and/or signed the Credo petition.  The resolution got 122 votes in favor, 41 abstentions including the US, and did not get any no votes. The U.S. did not succeed in watering down the resolution, but joined 40 other countries (list below), including Great Britain and Canada, in abstaining. Continue reading