In a framework agreement signed in August by the Crown and the Whanganui Iwi, a local Maori people, the Whanganui River has been recognised as ‘an integrated, living whole from the mountains to the sea’ and a legal entity with the rights and capacity of a natural person. Portions of the riverbed which are owned by the Crown will vest in the entity, known as Te Awa Tupua, and will be under the guardianship of two persons, one appointed by the Crown and the other by the Whanganui Iwi. A ‘set of Te Awa Tupua values’ to guide decision-makers will be developed, and will form part of a comprehensive strategy for the development and conservation of the river. New Zealand is not the first country to do this sort of thing: articles 71-74 of the 2008 constitution of Ecuador grant rights to the natural environment, which may be enforced by (human) individuals or groups.  

[Link available here, here, here and here].