Burials at sea rile iwi

By Mikaela Collins, Mike Dinsdale -
A site 70km northeast of Cape Brett is one of five authorised locations where bodies could be buried. The area is part of Ngati Kahu's rohe and iwi leader Anahera Herbert-Graves said they do not condone bodies being buried at sea, within their rohe.
A site 70km northeast of Cape Brett is one of five authorised locations where bodies could be buried. The area is part of Ngati Kahu's rohe and iwi leader Anahera Herbert-Graves said they do not condone bodies being buried at sea, within their rohe.

A Northland iwi culturally opposed to bodies being buried at sea says it was not consulted over a site within its rohe (area).

However, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which has control over burials more than 12 nautical miles from shore, says it spoke to the Ngati Kahu iwi through Te Hiku o te Ika Fisheries Forum.

The EPA has authorised five locations since it took over the consent process from Maritime New Zealand in October.

One of those locations covers a 4 nautical mile radius (about 7km), 70km northeast of Cape Brett - which is part of the Ngati Kahu rohe.

In the past five years there have been three burials at the location - in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Chief executive of Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngati Kahu Anahera Herbert-Graves said the iwi was not consulted about the burial locations, and did not condone burials at sea.

Ms Herbert-Graves said while it was personal choice to be buried at sea, the decision should not override iwi authority.

"There are two different types of tapu. There is sacred and there is forbidden and the body contains both of those aspects, the dead particularly.

You certainly do not eat around the dead body in Ngati Kahu and you do not place the tupapaku (dead) in our food cupboard."

The iwi was also against ashes being scattered at sea.

An EPA spokeswoman said, when regulations, which included the five proposed zones where burials at sea could be performed, were developed by the Ministry for the Environment in 2013, iwi were consulted. She said iwi were again consulted in the lead up to the regulations being implemented last October.

"A representative of the EPA's Maori team visited iwi that were potentially affected by the new regulations to inform them the new legislation was about to take effect," she said.

According to the EPA website, the team met the Te Hiku o te Ika Fisheries Forum which they said included various Far North iwi including Ngati Kahu.

But Ms Herbert-Graves said Ngati Kahu has no connection to the Te Hiku o te Ika Fisheries Forum.

"They do not speak for us, we are not members. They [EPA] have ... not contacted me, as our operations leader, or our chairperson, as the political leader."

The EPA website states it notifies every iwi, hapu, customary marine title group and protected customary rights group "whose existing interests the EPA considers may be affected by the activity".

Ms Herbert-Graves said she was annoyed as Ngati Kahu had also not been notified about the three burials and said if any more burials took place, Ngati Kahu would "take action".

"We will be reasonable, our people have boats and social media is so powerful."

Sea burial facts:

* There are five authorised locations where sea burials may take place.

* Burials at sea are required to use an appropriately weighted casket or containment that will sink to the seafloor immediately and will not resurface.

* Typically, a funeral home will liaise with the EPA on behalf of their client to ensure the relevant conditions are met and the paperwork is complete. They must provide the EPA with a written proposal at least three working days before the burial.

* Once the EPA is satisfied that the proposal complies with regulations, it will issue a certificate of compliance that authorises the burial to take place.

* Within 10 working days of the burial taking place, confirmation and evidence of the conditions being met must be provided to the EPA.

* The five locations chosen were pre-established sites for disposal of things like munitions and ships, because they're very deep.

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