8 Jun 2017

Cooks leader pushes at UN for oceans' legal status

4:59 pm on 8 June 2017
Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean, Cook Islands Photo: RNZI

The Cook Islands has growing support in its call to give the oceans the same legal rights a human being has.

At the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York, the Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna said it was not such a radical idea.

He said "the ocean is our provider, our sustainer, our life force. She provides for us and nourishes us. Yet we mistreat our ocean with pollution, overfishing and the impacts of climate change such as ocean acidification, coral bleaching and more severe and frequent cyclones".

Mr Puna gave the example of New Zealand's Wanganui River which is now recognised as an indivisible and living whole, and can be represented in court by guardians appointed to act on its behalf.

Mr Puna wants his UN colleagues to consider the same approach to protect the ocean.

He said New Caledonia thought it was a great idea while there had been backing from a youth delegate to the conference.