The Whanganui River on New Zealand’s North Island has been given the same rights as a human.

In being recognised as a living entity, the river now has the same rights, duties and liabilities that people do.

The declaration, which passed in New Zealand’s parliament on Wednesday, ended a 160-year battle by the Maori people to have the river recognised. This also brought to an end New Zealand’s longest-running lawsuit.

The passing of the bill was celebrated with song and dance in Parliament.

The river, called Te Awa Tupua by Maori people, is an important one in Maori culture and now its interests will be looked after by two guardians, one from the Whanganui iwi and another from the state.

The passing of the Whanganui River Claims Settlement in practice means that the river and its interests can now be represented in court by a person. There will also be a monetary settlement, though the specifics are still to be agreed.