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Wally Eketone was at a cousin's funeral last year and it struck him as odd the amount of money that had been spent on the coffin.

Speaking later to family and friends, he learned it was not unusual for people to fork out thousands of dollars on a final resting place for their loved ones.

Mr Eketone realised he could put his carpentry skills to good use making budget coffins that still looked good.

He and his wife, Marie, have started In Comfort Coffins, manufacturing them in rented premises at Ngaruawahia - not far from the town's cemetery.

"We're here to help the people who can't afford it," Mr Eketone said.

The seeds of the idea were planted more than 20 years ago when he almost died and told his family he wanted a cheap coffin.

But it was not until Mr Eketone came back from building houses in Australia for several years that he realised there could be a market for budget caskets.

The company has two models: one made out of mahogany plywood for $750 and the other from chipboard for just under $500.

Recycled wood can be used - Mr Eketone sands down old floorboards to use in the coffins.

He keeps prices low by selling direct to the public rather than through undertakers.

"I'm quite pleased the way things are going but it's funny - it's the Europeans who have taken to it, but the Maori don't seem to want to know.

"There's nothing wrong with our coffins, though."

Marie Eketone said people could save more money by planning funerals themselves.

The couple also make cheap coffins for pets.