Very soon, Mount Taranaki – one of Lonely Planet’s top destinations for 2017, and a sacred mountain to the Māori tribes of New Zealand – will become the first mountain in the world to achieve the same legal rights as a living person. The dormant mountain will have the status of a legal personality in its own right, which means that if someone harms or abuses it, it will legally count as harming or abusing a (human) member of the Māori tribes.
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This will make Mount Taranaki the third geographic feature in the country to earn these rights. The 120,000 year old volcano has not erupted since 1775, and is viewed by the indigenous people as whanau, a family member. It’s also reckoned to be the most frequently climbed mountain in New Zealand – so what will these new protections mean for visitors to the mountain? We’ll have to wait and see.