The New Zealand pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will feature the world-first legal status accorded to the Whanganui River in 2017.
The Whanganui River treaty settlement made the river a living entity, Te Awa Tupua. It obliges anyone relating to the river to embody its values, Tupua Te Kawa.
The story fits with New Zealand's theme at the expo - Care for People and Place, New Zealand's Expo Commissioner-General Clayton Kimpton said.
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Trust earlier this month. The agreement acknowledges the mana (status) and integrity of Te Awa Tupua, ahead of development of the New Zealand pavilion.
The Whanganui story will show New Zealand as a forward-thinking nation and be an inspirational platform, Kimpton said.
Te Awa Tupua heralds a paradigm shift toward recognising people are part of the natural environment, Ngā Tāngata Tiaki chairman Gerrard Albert said.
"We are sharing the provenance of Te Awa Tupua to guide what we want to be a confronting and life-affirming experience for those visiting the New Zealand pavilion.
"The story needs to cover the journey we've taken as a nation to arrive at this point and the journey ahead of us."
The New Zealand pavilion will be in the sustainability district of the expo, and building and maintaining it will cost the Government $53 million.
It will be built in the shape of a waka huia, a traditional carved container made by Māori to hold treasured possessions. Such containers were given as gifts to cement relationships.
The pavilion will have an exhibition space, a design store, hosting facilities and a restaurant.
The expo will have pavilions from 190 nations spread across 4.38 square kilometres, and is expected to host 25 million visitors. It starts in October 2020 and runs for six months.
The purpose of an expo or world fair is to showcase the achievements of nations and to provide business opportunities. The Dubai expo, in the United Arab Emirates, will be the largest event ever held in the Arab world. It is expected to earn $122 billion.
A one-day ticket to it will cost US$33 ($52).
The United Arab Emirates are New Zealand's 10th largest trading partner.
The last world fair New Zealand participated in was in Shanghai, China, in 2010.