A group of Singapore ' />

They may never have been to New Zealand in their lifetime, but a new wave of "immigrants" could be spending eternity here.

A group of Singapore businessmen was here last month, and appointed an agent to help them look for land in the Hibiscus Coast area to bury dead people from cities such as Singapore and Tokyo, which are running out of cemetery space.

They toured much of the North Island, but decided on the Orewa area after consulting a Taoist priest and a feng shui master.

"Honouring their ancestors is an important aspect of most Asian cultures, and the group is also hoping that this cemetery project will give immigrants the opportunity to bring the remains of their ancestors to New Zealand," said the group's agent, a part-time tourist guide, who did not want to be named.

"It would spare future generations the inconvenience of having to go back to their land of origin to worship their ancestors in festivals like Qing Ming, and performing Bai Shan."

Qing Ming is being observed this Sunday, and the Chinese ritual of Bai Shan involves lighting incense, burning joss papers and preparing a banquet to share with ancestors at the graves of loved ones.

The concept of overseas burial is not new, especially in land-starved cities such as Singapore where the Government exhumes graveyards after 15 years and returns the remains to the next-of-kin.

Cremation is not an option for some Buddhists and Taoists, who want their bodies kept intact after death because of their belief in reincarnation.

Australian cemeteries are marketing plots in Asia.

Melbourne's Springvale Botanical Cemetery placed an advertisement in the Straits Times last Saturday selling "burial space in Melbourne, Australia".

"Cremated remains or full body burial sites can be purchased without a time limit. Future generations will not have to make decisions due to expiry or termination of a location," the advertisement said.

The president of the New Zealand Chinese Association, Kai Luey, said he would support the project because it would keep Chinese traditions alive for new immigrants, and would give them a greater sense of belonging.

Singapore Club president Allan Yee thought the concept was "interesting", but doubted if many in the 4000-strong Singaporean community would be rushing to bring dead ancestors here.

The Department of Internal Affairs says people can bring human remains to New Zealand if they have the right documentation.

Burial and cremation facilities are administered by city and district councils.

Although anyone can organise the burial or cremation of a body, it can be buried or cremated only in areas permitted by law, the department said.