Maunu Cemetery at the fringes of the Whangārei urban area is more than the last resting place, with visitors coming from afar to appreciate the gardens.

For the third time, Maunu Cemetery has been internationally recognised as one of New Zealand's 29 winning parks and open spaces, taking out a Green Flag Award.

Operations manager Stephen Jenkins said he was working with a fantastic team who all enjoyed their workplace and prided themselves with being a destination for people locally and from around the world.

He said the team was working towards creating a peaceful and calming atmosphere within the grounds, especially for those who attend funerals at Maunu.


"It's a terrible time for the family when someone passes away, and so we're trying to make the surroundings as pleasant as we can."

Jenny Waterhouse weeds amoungst the headstones at Maunu Cemetery.
Jenny Waterhouse weeds amoungst the headstones at Maunu Cemetery.

The Green Flag Award is the international mark of a quality park or green space, judged by green space-expert volunteers, across eight criteria.

These criteria include horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability, community involvement, and providing a warm welcome.

"We are really fortunate with the volcanic soil here because plants grow well," Jenkins said.

His daily chores revolve around cemetery maintenance like mowing and weeding, as well as customer services.

"Recently, we have been trying to introduce more pieces of interest with artwork installations," Jenkins said.

The Green Flag Award aims to set a benchmark standard for recreational outdoor spaces worldwide.

From the 29 outstanding green spots in New Zealand, Te Mata Park in Hawke's Bay and Auckland's Randwick Park took out this year's community award.


"This year the Green Flag Award has been a positive challenge," Recreation Aotearoa Parks and Open Spaces programme manager Karl Nesbitt said.

"As judges, we've had the great opportunity to experience some of New Zealand's quality places and spaces that are used by the community.

"A big thank you needs to go to the communities behind the management and delivery of these parks and to our judges who volunteer their time to share their knowledge with the park teams."

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Community engagement is indeed a big part of what makes Maunu Cemetery special and Jenkins' team doesn't work alone to keep the grounds up and running.

Titoki resident Pat Gavin has been walking past the cemetery for a few years always thinking about how lovey the place was until one day she and her friends decided to pick up some tools and help out with the gardening tasks.

The group named themselves Friends of Maunu Cemetery and had their inaugural gardening day at the end of August and have since been "planting away" every Tuesday, utilising donated flowers and other plants.

"It's marvellous the way [the cemetery operators] keep the place," Gavin said. "It's all so tidy, and they have really lovely gardens."

The group is looking after an older section of the cemetery "that is a bit neglected". Gavin said there some "wee spots where the staff can't get in with their lawnmowers" so the group started weeding there.

As summer is nearing, the group will stop planting because the soil is too dry, and instead they will be keeping their spot clean of weeds.

"After Christmas, it will be full-on again," Gavin said.

The group largely consists of ladies with one gentleman being part of the gardening crew; however anyone and everyone was welcome to join, Gavin said.

She said if keen volunteers weren't free to join the group on Tuesday mornings, they could come around anytime and pick up a hoe.

To get involved in Friends Of Maunu Cemetery, email