Harakeke casket, otherwise called a waka kawe or waka tupapaku, is a new offering whānau can chose to have their loved ones buried in.

Simplicity Bereavement Services in Hastings is able to offer the waka kawe for whānau who want a more environmentally friendly option.

"There was a high demand for these harakeke caskets, and a lot of whānau wanting to go natural and go back to their roots and they don't want big expensive caskets," says Sandra Morris funeral director at Simplicity.

"With the harakeke the idea is to keep out anything that isn't natural because that then defeats the purpose of using the harakeke.

"It adds the element of our culture back into a Westernised services because everything we do is a colonised tradition so it's being able to bring that back into tangihanga.


"Because of the resurgence in Māoridom that we're seeing through people learning te reo Māori we wanted to be able to cater to this need."

Two weavers based in Gisborne, Hine Moeke-Murray and Janine Te Reo, are able to help fill the demand of whānau wanting the waka kawe.

"Biodegradable is getting more and more popular absolutely for Māori because we want to be authentically who we are and having caskets is just not us," says Moeke-Murray.

Each piece is made completely with harakeke and uses no harsh chemicals, with the idea to use a stretcher underneath instead of wheels and place kawakawa leaves inside.

The funeral home has been inundated with inquiries about the waka kawe and Morris says the phones have been running hot.

"We've got a long list of people that are on a waiting that have sent us through their details, but they're not only wanting it but they want to learn how to weave it as well."

The funeral home has taken on extra staff to help cater to the needs of all Kahungunu whānau since the launch of its Kahungunu Funeral Package in February this year.

The package is for iwi members through an agreement with Simplicity Bereavement Services which is designed to reduce the burden of expensive funerals.


Kahungunu descendants who have an iwi card can access the $4025 package, which includes a complete service from pick-up to burial.

The total cost can be paid after the funeral or through a payment option for members.

The waka kawe are available now and can take around two days to prepare and complete, all inquiries can be directed to simplicityhawkesbay.co.nz.