About Karabi Acharya, ScD, Director at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Tim Ng, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury of New Zealand and its chief economic adviser.

Karabi Acharya directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s strategies for global learning, including efforts to learn from global efforts to advance well-being to help inspire new approaches for advancing a Culture of Health in the U.S.

Tim Ng is deputy secretary of the Treasury of New Zealand and its chief economic adviser. Tim has played an instrumental role in developing the nation’s inaugural Wellbeing Budget. The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are strictly those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Zealand Treasury or the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand Treasury and the New Zealand Government take no responsibility for any errors or omissions in, or for the correctness of, the information contained in the article.

I Am The River, The River is Me: Prioritizing Well-being Through Water Policy

In New Zealand, persistent, concentrated advocacy and legal cases advanced by Māori people are inspiring biocentric policies; that is, those which recognize that people and nature, including living and non-living elements, are part of an interconnected whole. Along the way, tribal leaders and advocates are successfully making the case that nature; whole systems of rivers, lakes, forests, mountains, and more, deserves legal standing to ensure its protection. An early legislative “win” granted personhood status to the Te Urewera forest in 2014, which codified into law these moving lines:

“Te Urewera is ancient and enduring, a fortress of nature, alive with history; its scenery is abundant with mystery, adventure, and remote beauty … Te Urewera has an identity in and of itself, inspiring people to commit to its care.”

The Te Urewera Act of 2014 did more than redefine how a forest would be managed, it pushed forward the practical expression of a new policy paradigm.