Introduction

The Whanganui River may not pay taxes or vote, but it has the same rights as a human being. That's because in early 2017 it became the first river to be legally recognised as a person, following a 140-year battle. The new legislation recognises the spiritual connection between Māori iwi and the river, considered an ancestor.

Curling 290km from Mt Tongariro to the Tasman Sea, it’s the longest navigable river in New Zealand, and visitors traverse it by canoe, kayak, jetboat, and bike.

The native bush here is thick, podocarp, broad-leaved forest interspersed with ferns. Occasionally you’ll see poplars and other introduced trees along the river, remnants of long-vanished settlements. There are also traces of Māori settlements, with old (fortified village) and kainga (village) sites, and Hauhau niu (war and peace) poles at the convergence of the Whanganui and Ohura Rivers at Maraekowhai.