After 50 years of lying almost untouched at Gray's Funeral Services home, one box of ashes is still waiting to be collected.

It is one of more than 150 boxes of cremated remains that have been left at the Rotorua funeral home over the years.

Gray's Funeral Services director Richard Bennison said the majority of families collected their loved ones' ashes from the home within six months of their deaths but there was a small number of people who failed to do so, which has meant the number of ashes has "added up".

After a person is cremated the remains are sent to a funeral home to be picked up by a relative but sometimes because of circumstances no one comes to collect them.


Mr Bennison said some families chose to leave ashes with the funeral home because they were unable to decide what to do with them or where to scatter them.

"We have some of the ashes here for safe keeping. We keep them here until a family member requests them and we don't dispose of them because you never know when a family member, a father, brother or son, will come to pick up the ashes.

"It could take 20 years before they are collected but at the end of the day ashes are still the remains of people's loved ones and still deserve to be respected," he said.

Mr Bennison said there were several other reasons why people might not collect their relative's ashes.

"Sometimes there are complications with broken marriages and family disputes or people have moved or there might be no family members living to collect the ashes," he said.

"Other times the ashes are simply forgotten about."

Osbornes Funeral Home managing director Keith Osborne said forgotten ashes were a problem for funeral homes all over the country, but reiterated the number of forgotten ashes was low compared to the number of cremations carried out each year.

Mr Osborne said his company took a proactive approach in contacting families to remind them to collect ashes and called them about three months after a funeral.

He said he understood deciding how to intern loved ones' ashes was a difficult decision for families to make and could take some time to process.

In some cases family members had requested funeral homes stored a person's ashes until their partner or spouse died so their ashes could be scattered together, Mr Osborne said.

"There's also a very small percentage of families who don't attach a huge emotional significance to ashes, and choose not to collect them, but I think that's certainly very rare," he said.

Mr Osborne said he wanted to send a gentle reminder to families who had yet to pick up their relatives' ashes.