John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Lively debate on dead issues

Family gravesites on the farm and revised cremation rules among burial law ideas

Some cultures are seeking more options to farewelling loved ones. Photo / Thinkstock
Some cultures are seeking more options to farewelling loved ones. Photo / Thinkstock

Livelier cremation services and better ways of turning your corpse into compost are hot topics as people have their say on a proposed overhaul of burial laws.

The submission period for a Law Commission review of the Burial and Cremation Act has been extended to January 20 because of high public interest.

Submissions already made express concern at a lack of choice at cemeteries. Burials on family farms, industry regulation and consumer protection are also being proposed.

Some cultures are seeking more options to farewelling loved ones. Hindus were keen to explore alternative ways of cremating loved ones or scattering ashes.

"The sterile, industrial approach we have doesn't suit them at all," Law Commission policy adviser Cate Honore Brett said.

Hindu Council spokesman Dr Rajiv Chaturvedi said that in some places, local authorities banned scattering of ashes in water.

Sikhs were generally happy with current laws, community leader Paul Singh Bains said, but some had problems with Customs when taking loved ones' ashes back to India.

In another draft submission, the Islamic Ulama Council of New Zealand Trust said new independent cemeteries should be limited to registered charities, religious organisations and non-profit bodies.

Brett said there was some talk about a "lack of good processes" with ash collection.

"Occasionally, stories pop up about funeral directors who have hundreds of ashes stored and don't know what to do with them or don't know what they're allowed to do with them."

The review would also ask whether stronger consumer protection was needed for customers of funeral and cremation services.

Lamb and Hayward Funeral Directors chief executive Stephen Parkyn said his submission would probably support mandatory, nationally-recognised qualifications for funeral and cremation providers.

Ways of giving old, full graveyards a new lease on life were also mooted. "We're looking at ways to resuscitate some of those old closed cemeteries by perhaps letting ash interment occur to try to reconnect them with the community and get some revenue into them," Brett said.

Eco-burial valued speedy and chemical-free biodegradation of corpses.

Natural Burials founder and director Mark Blackham said his group's submission supported opening the cemetery sector to independent providers, increasing the scope for burials on private land, and offering more diversity in public cemeteries.

"We believe it should be made mandatory for councils to bury residents according to their wishes," he said.

- Herald on Sunday

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