In recent months a newcomer to the Rotorua funeral service scene has started "rattling a few chains" - openly advertising its costs in an industry that's traditionally been more circumspect.

Cambridge-based Waipa Funeral Homes has expanded into Rotorua and for the past four months has been marketing its services here.

Waipa director Todd Gower said making an impact was what he and fellow director Mike Lee intended when they launched in Rotorua.

"We've since noticed other funeral directors advertising a lot more. We wanted to rattle a few chains, stir them up."

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Mr Gower, who has been a funeral director for about 20 years, said in the past people "have just paid and not really asked questions" when it came to funerals.

Now, people were more conscious of costs so looked at all options available.

"They are keeping things more simple . . . a private family service then having perhaps a memorial service later at home, a bit of a knees-up, a celebration of life," he said. "They're looking at doing more themselves."

Fixed price

He said their direct cremation service cost $1795.

That covered collecting the body and transporting it for cremation, documentation and they "threw in" a newspaper notice. They also offer a "complete funeral service" fixed price option for $3990.

Mr Gower said funerals were no longer only held in churches and chapels, they could be held anywhere and be in any form, "as long as its legal".

He estimated 65 to 70 per cent of Rotorua deaths resulted in the cheaper option of cremation, rather than burial.

A White Haven Funeral Home staff member, who did not want to be named, said the biggest change she'd noticed in recent years had been the "more than usual" number of Maori being cremated.

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She said it was primarily a cost factor - avoiding the expense of buying a public plot, burial maintenance and maintenance fees. She said many people also chose not to have the body embalmed, as there was no legal requirement to do so.

"It just depends on how long they're going to have them for. If they're being buried immediately we may not need to embalm."

Pre-arrange where possible

She recommended everyone talked to their families and where possible pre-arranged their funerals and what they wanted to happen.

"Not just for yourselves but for the family. So they are not left in the lurch," she said.

Mountain View Funeral Services director Erin MacDonald said she did a lot of pre-arrangements.

Families were also getting more involved in the details of the day.

"Over the years I have noticed that things are changing. People are wanting to do more things themselves, whether that's the flowers, service sheets, creating their own DVDs or power point displays. Not relying on funeral directors doing so much," she said.

She said it was okay to be different when it came to venues.

"At home, in the garden, bowling club, somewhere that has significance as opposed to the traditional chapel or church," she said.

"Those alternative venues are my preference, it creates a feeling, somewhere that their mum or their dad spent time. But there's always room for tradition, often the older generation prefer chapel or church."

Cost reflects service

She said when people rang and asked "how much is it for a funeral?" she couldn't give them a figure until she had more details.

"My costings are based on what people require of me," she said. "Everyone's needs are so different, that's reflected in the costings."

She said there was a bit of a "price war" going on in Rotorua, with "reactive advertising" of prices.

"Pricing hasn't always been advertised in Rotorua. For me I don't advertise costs because it's so flexible."

Many families will shop around for the best deal when a loved one died, but price wasn't always the sole factor, she said.

"At the end of the day their final decisions aren't always based on financial reasons, it may have felt good, had a nice vibe, a whole lot of different reasons."

An Osbornes Funeral Home staff member, who did not want to be named, said the advertising of funeral costs was relatively new.

"Funeral directors have never really promoted costs in their advertising," he said. "If people ring up we're more than happy to talk about what prices will be."

He said Osbornes had started advertising its direct cremation service for $1785 - offering the same basic service as Waipa and most other homes, he said.

But it was the level of service Osbornes offered that was more important than the cost for most, he said.

* For more details on funerals go to www.funeralsnewzealand.co.nz.