Church leaders and funeral directors are welcoming the relaxed limit on social gatherings to 100 people, allowing services to inch closer to pre-Covid conditions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this afternoon announced that the change will take effect from midday Friday, allowing churches to resume services and more mourners to attend funerals and tangi.

Bishop Peter Carrell said he welcomed the move and was happy that parishes could safely resume meeting for worship.

"Lockdown has been a challenging time, and I appreciate the Government has had to balance health, economic, and cultural needs and that it has taken a cautious approach to date," he said.

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"I'm sure this will be good news for leaders of all faith groups. I personally wish to thank the Prime Minister for listening to our concerns and taking this step, and I look forward to gatherings of greater numbers when the government is confident New Zealand is able to do so safely."

But level 2 rules will linger as worshippers once again gather for prayer, as churches remaining vigilant about hygiene protocols, social distancing and contact-tracing regimens.

Funeral Directors Association President Gary Taylor also welcomed the announcement, saying it would allow more people a chance to say goodbye to a loved one.

Taylor said the previous funeral restrictions – capped at 50 people – added pressure to already grieving families to decide who could and could not attend the funeral.

"The restrictions on the number of people added another layer of decision-making and disturbance to an already emotional time," he said.

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"The sooner we can see the restrictions removed, the sooner that families can grieve in a more positive way."

While the strict hygiene, physical distancing rules and contact tracing rules would also remain in place at the services, Taylor said he was encouraged by Ardern's comments that on June 22 Cabinet would consider when the country could move to alert level 1.

Ardern said today's announcement was an intention to give people notice of the change, but she was also mindful of religious communities that normally congregate on Fridays.


Controversially, only 10 people were initially allowed at a funeral and tangi at level 2.

But that number was extended to 50 people on May 13 after the Government came under fire for allowing restaurants and sports events to have up to 100 people.

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Taylor earlier warned that the limited number of attendees allowed to say goodbye to a loved one may lead to an increase in violence.

If people were missing out on that stage of grief then they are going to have to deal with it further down the track, he told the Herald.

"There's a potential that we could end up seeing more violence within our communities and domestic violence where people are not dealing with those emotions."

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