Some Wanganui region funeral homes are holding on to people's ashes for years as they wait for families to claim them or for events to catch up with them.
Cleveland Funeral Home co-owner Craig Cleveland said the oldest ashes his home held were more than 30 years old.
Beauchamp Funeral Home and Crematorium owner Peter Beauchamp said his home still held ashes from when he bought the business 30 years ago.
Mr Cleveland said his home's oldest ashes dated back to 1978.
"We're waiting for the man's spouse to die, so they can be joined together."
Sometimes ashes went unclaimed while families waited for a special occasion like an
anniversary, he said.
"Around Christmas we get a rush of people collecting ashes as families get together and
decide what to do."
The home was happy to hold ashes for a long time - as long as there were instructions from the family.
The company took stock of the ashes every year and sent letters out to families who had not picked them up, he said.
When they had not heard from the family for 20 years, they scattered them in the rose
garden at Aramoho Cemetery.
Mr Beauchamp said he had 40 or 50 urns waiting to be collected from his three funeral homes in Marton, Feilding and Palmerston North.
"A lot of them are recent.
"There are maybe 10 that have been here for a long time.
"We do still hold some from the previous owner from 30 years ago."
The old ashes were kept in a special room, "safe and secure".
"We do look after them."
Every five years his company would write a letter to the family to see if they still wanted the ashes, Mr Beauchamp said.
Meanwhile, he was considering a policy that would allow the company to take control of the ashes after three years of no contact with a family.
"[But] I won't do anything with the older ones while I'm working here."