11.5As discussed in chapter 5, there is a public interest in ensuring that everyone has access to a proper funeral, which has long been recognised. This interest captures concerns about public health, and respect and propriety towards the dead.
11.8As discussed in chapter 1, ensuring that the deceased is treated in a culturally appropriate manner, and that the family of the deceased are able to perform any necessary religious or other rituals, is in the general public interest. For example, most Māori and Pākehā New Zealanders are embalmed so that the body can be laid out at a marae or private home for a longer period of time without beginning to decay, and to allow for an open casket. This is a particularly common feature of the tangihanga, of which the display of the tūpāpaku for a final farewell is an integral part. In contrast, the religious laws of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Sikhism all consider embalming to be disrespectful and fundamentally inconstant with ritual requirements. As New Zealand becomes increasingly multicultural and pluralistic, we expect different sectors of the community will have increasingly diverse views about what constitutes respectful handling of the dead. It is important that the legal framework provides for these different approaches.
11.9The public interest in a dignified funeral requires us to consider standards of service, affordability, and the position of the consumer. The person or people purchasing funeral services will almost always be the family or close friends of the deceased. Decisions about funerals are usually made in times of high stress, and often without any prior experience. These factors may suggest that the consumer protection interest is higher in relation to funeral services than many other services, an issue that we discuss further in the next section.