A request for a separate burial area for Maori at Tauranga's Pyes Pa Cemetery has been sidelined by the city council.
Tauranga City Council yesterday passed a new policy to allow exclusive burial areas for religious or cultural groups whose "physical burial protocols" could not be accommodated in the general management of the cemetery.
The wording meant that a request from the city's Tangata Whenua Collective for a separate burial area for Maori could not be accommodated at Pyes Pa Cemetery.
However Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby did not shut the door entirely on the request, promising instead to "re-engage with the collective" to work through the issues.
The new policy was aimed principally at Muslims and followed a dilemma last year when a Muslim boy died but could not be buried in the cemetery because of Muslim burial protocols.
Muslim graves face a different direction to those at Pyes Pa and are wider than standard plots. Mr Crosby's intervention meant the family was allowed to bury their son away from the existing non-denominational graves.
The decision forced a review of burial practices at the cemetery, leading to Maori joining the Exclusive Brethren in seeking a separate burial area. Under the policy passed yesterday, they would have to prove their plot requirements could not be accommodated in the general area.
The Tangata Whenua Collective wanted an exclusive area for Maori because some Maori chose to be buried in a public cemetery or were unable to return home to be buried.
Tauranga City Council policy analyst Debra Langton said the burial protocols for Maori did not meet the special requirements defined in the policy for an exclusive burial area.
She said they did not want to go down the path of allowing exclusive burial areas for any group that requested it.
Cr Mike Baker was concerned that separate burial areas would reduce the ability to maximise the number of burials in the cemetery.
The non-denominational policy meant it would take another 20 years before the cemetery was filled. This included double-depth burials on a single plot for couples.
He wondered whether the council should establish a Maori cemetery closer to Maori land.
However council's city directions manager Christine Jones cautioned that such a cemetery would still be in a hapu or iwi's area. The hapu or iwi may be quite comfortable with their own people but they may not be with others. A public cemetery removed that problem.