The partner of a young Christchurch father who died six years ago has lost a legal bid to have him dug up and cremated.
Cheyenne Rana Biddle wanted to exhume the body of her long-term partner, Jamie Robert Pooley, who died on May 14, 2011, so he could be cremated and returned to his ancestral homeland.
She took her bid to the High Court in Christchurch, applying for legal permission to exhume Pooley on the basis that the 27-year-old father-of-three, who was buried in a family plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, always wanted to be cremated.
Pooley's whanau denied the claims, did not want him disturbed, and objected to her application in a civil trial last year.
Now, in a judgment released today, Justice Gerald Nation has denied Biddle's application.
"When I heard the news, I just broke down in tears," Pooley's sister Frances told the Herald this afternoon.
"We're really happy, it's overwhelming. It's been such a big struggle over the last four years or so, with what my family has had to go through, so we're all so glad it's over."
Justice Nation was satisfied that there had been no breach of tikanga protocol, or Maori custom, in the arrangements of Pooley's funeral by his whanau.
The judge also noted that what Biddle was seeking, and what she said she and Jamie had agreed to, itself "involved a departure from tikanga".
"It was normal, in accordance with tikanga, for a deceased to be buried rather than cremated. Cheyenne had also acknowledged that Jamie had, through burial, been returned to Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother, and had accepted that exhumation would, itself, be a breach of tikanga."
Justice Nation, in his judgment, said that while Biddle had later made an issue about claimed breaches of tikanga, it had not seemed to be particularly important to her at the time.
The dead man's mother, Charlotte Pooley, passed away in hospital just weeks after giving emotional evidence at his trial.
She was buried in the family plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, alongside her son Jamie.
Today's decision meant they could lie side-by-side in peace, Frances said.
"The first thing I did when I found out the news was to grab both of their photos and say, 'We've done it, you guys can stay together'. It's just a huge relief," Frances said.
Biddle, as administrator of the estate of Pooley, who did not have a will, also sought ownership of Maori weapons belonging to Pooley - two taiaha (close-quarters staffs) and one tewhatewha (long-handled club) - taonga which Biddle wanted made available "for his sons to earn".
However, Justice Nation also denied that application today.
Frances Pooley hopes that both her family, and Biddle, can now move on with their lives.
"We want to just be a family again, and we hope that one day, it will include Cheyenne too. She was part of a family, and despite what we've been through, she will always be part of our family," she said.
"I can only imagine what she is feeling today as well, but I hope she feels a relief in some way too. We all need to move forward with our lives."