We demand openness and transparency from our local bodies.

But a $200 surcharge to cremate overweight dead bodies is an idea that should have been shot down in flames.

Hastings District Council this week raised the matter at a public council meeting and then hit the pause button on the idea so the public could have input.

The public doesn't need input - this is an idea the HDC should never have let see the light of day.


The proposal is to charge $200 extra to cremate people who are 150kg plus. That would push the cost of the cremation to $900.

It is a cost-recouping suggestion. It takes longer and therefore costs more to cremate someone 150kg plus. (Does it cost less to cremate a smaller person?)

It's admirable that a staff member or contractor within HDC has raised this. Councils are often accused of thoughtless spending, of wasting ratepayers' dollars, and of acting without ratepayer input.

So it's a positive tick that HDC have staff who make cost-cutting observations.

However, ideas need evaluation as to their merits from many perspectives, not just cost.

And this case, the proposal perpetuates social stigmas around obesity.

Charging 150kg plus people more to cremate them is arguably body shaming them when they are alive.

Funeral directors, well versed in the art of sensitive and delicate conversation, are probably not impressed at the conversation starter the proposal offers.

The social media reaction to the idea has been to suggest, and this is a polite representation, that the idea be abandoned.

Perhaps Hastings District Council is sensitive about public consultation, after debacles such as the zig zag track on Te Mata Peak, which continues to zig and zag as an ongoing story.

But given the extra $200 charge is only going to recoup about $1200 to $1600 a year, the $ versus the negative implications make this an idea that should have been commended but put aside.

At least the HDC had a quorum to vote on the idea.

Across at the regional council this week, a councillor walked out so that a quorum did not exist, and a vote could not be made on a controversial issue - introducing new minimum water flow levels in the Tukituki catchment.

Councillor Fenton Wilson wants the flows delayed, hence the walkout.

That's not democracy, nor is it regional councillors doing what ratepayers expect them to do - make tough decisions in the best interests of the environment and the region.

It's an election year, let's hope no councillor in 2019 baulks at difficult or unpopular decisions that might be perceived as costing them votes.

Especially around issues like water - the lifeblood of the region that also happens to make an influential group of Hawke's Bay business people rich.