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City's new Natural Cemetery to be opened

30 May 2008

City's new Natural Cemetery to be officially opened

Wellington's new Natural Cemetery - part of Makara Cemetery - will be officially opened by Mayor Kerry Prendergast next week. The opening will happen at the site on Tuesday 3 June at 3pm and media are welcome to attend.

Wellington is the first place in the country where people can opt to have a completely natural burial thanks to a partnership between the City Council and the not-for-profit organisation, Natural Burials. The first natural burial has already taken place.

People who opt for a natural burial are not embalmed after death and their body is buried about a metre down where the 'active' soil layer and added compost assist in the natural decomposition process. Bodies are buried in an approved, bio-degradable casket made from untreated wood that has been sustainably grown and harvested. A native tree is planted at the head or base of each plot and it is envisaged that the area, which is largely open and grassed at this stage, will one day be covered in native forest.

Natural Burials founder Mark Blackham says people are demanding more involvement and choice in what happens to their bodies after they die and can be attracted to the idea of a natural burial for many reasons, including religious, spiritual and environmental.

"Being buried naturally allows nature's own processes to do their work, returning the body to the soil completely in a matter of years," he says. "Many people find the idea of being buried in an area that will be covered in native bush, a fitting memorial to their lives and see it as a legacy for future generations."

He says Wellington is the first New Zealand city to open a fully-fledged natural cemetery though some other New Zealand local authorities, including the Tasman District Council, are planning similar initiatives, and Auckland's Waikumete Cemetery in Waitakere City offers some eco-options.

The Council's Social Portfolio Leader, Councillor Ngaire Best, says Makara Cemetery already caters for a wide range of denominations and requirements and the new Natural Cemetery will address a need, offering an environmentally sustainable option for people who want that.

"There is a growing awareness about climate change and the need to live more sustainably," she says. "Natural burials are an opportunity to contribute in a very real sense to the regeneration of an area. It's great that Wellingtonians now have that option - especially given our aim as a city to be the world's first carbon-neutral capital."


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