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Auckland Bylaw for Cemeteries and Crematoria Concerns

The changes being proposed by Auckland Council in its new Bylaw for Cemeteries and Crematoria raise concerns for Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand (FDANZ) funeral directors.

Of concern is that the Council proposes that only an authorised person can fill in a grave. FDANZ funeral directors believe this change will restrict families from being able to fill in the graves of their loved ones. New Zealand is a multi-cultural society, and for many cultures the practice of the family filling in the grave is very important. It is often a traditional and essential part of the whole funeral process and it would be wrong for Council to place restrictions on who can fill in the grave and thereby deny families the choice to do so.

While we acknowledge that the Council must take health and safety issues into consideration, it is essential that health and safety does not override cultural, religious and social needs of the communities and families who make up the diverse population of Auckland.

As an example, I recently assisted a family who decided to fill in the grave. The family had cared for their father at home during his illness, and had been very ‘hands-on’ in their care of him. Filling in his grave was a logical extension of the caring they had been doing during his terminal illness. His teenage children and his workmates all took turns at the arduous work of returning the soil to the grave. Other members of the family stood around chatting and observing the effort everyone was putting into the task. When the grave was completely filled, they left with a sense of having properly completed the funeral and burial for the person they loved. It would be wrong to deny other families this valuable opportunity.

Another concern is in relation to proposed restrictions on the number of people who can be present to see a casket placed in the cremator. This is an essential part of the funeral ceremony for some ethnic and religious communities and Council’s proposed changes will adversely impact on the funeral customs of these communities.

FDANZ funeral directors are also concerned that some Council cemeteries are placing a cap on the number of burials that can be done in any one day, thereby impacting the ability of families to plan and undertake their funeral rituals in a timely way.

We hope the Council will carefully re-consider the impact the proposed bylaw will have on Auckland’s diverse communities.

Kathy Fransham

Chair - Auckland District

The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand (FDANZ)

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