When his time came, screenwriter David Stevens hoped to be buried naturally, with little fuss.

The 77-year-old, who lived in Whangārei, had a long career in the film industry, was nominated for an Oscar in 1980 for Australian film Breaker Morant.

He was one of many who wanted the Whangārei District Council to establish a natural burial ground in its native forest area at Maunu Cemetery.

David Stevens talked with the Northern Advocate about his plans in May this year. Photo / John Stone
David Stevens talked with the Northern Advocate about his plans in May this year. Photo / John Stone

''The idea behind it is that you give back to earth or nature, what you have taken from earth or nature,'' the terminally ill Stevens told the Northern Advocate in May.

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On Saturday, he got his wish, and his burial was the first of its kind in Whangārei.

Stevens died on July 18.

He grew up in Africa and the Middle East, studied acting in the UK, and began his screen career in New Zealand.

After a successful writing and directing career spent mainly in Australia, Stevens retired to Tutukaka, before moving to Kamo in recent years.

Stevens was a strong supporter of local dramatic arts.

Aware of the growing trend for natural burials, the Whangārei council had worked for some time to satisfy the Ministry of Health, which administers the Burials and Cremation, about its burial specifications and proposed location.

A natural burial means the body, which must not be embalmed, is buried in a relatively shallow grave, wrapped in a heavy shroud or put in a shallow box made from cardboard or other untreated woods or fibres.

There is very little in the way of marking who is buried there, with no headstones. The graves are 800cm deep, where the active layer of soil will enable the body to return to the earth relatively quickly.