4.75Unlike the United Kingdom, New Zealand does not have a long history of burial within the confines of a church parish. With a few exceptions, churches are not a significant provider of burial and cremation services in contemporary New Zealand.
4.76However, there are a significant number of small denominational burial grounds that were established on land set aside by, or gifted to, the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches early last century. As for trustee-managed cemeteries, there is no central register of these denominational burial grounds although many local authorities have built up comprehensive databases on the burial grounds in their area.
4.77Many of these burial grounds were intended to serve the needs of rural communities but as the size and demographic make-up of rural communities change, many of the associated parish churches have been amalgamated or transferred to larger population centres. As a consequence it has become relatively common for small provincial churches to find themselves in the difficult position of wishing to sell deconsecrated church property containing old burial grounds.
4.78This contemporary phenomenon is not something the 1964 Act was designed to provide for. At this stage, we have only a partial understanding of how extensive these problems are. In consultation following the release of this Issues Paper we anticipate receiving submissions on this issue to ascertain the best reform options from the perspective of churches and the wider community.
4.82 More recently, in 2012 the Ministry of Health approved an application from a Taupo couple to establish a Jewish burial ground on a portion of their farm adjoining native bush and reserve land administered by the Department of Conservation. The couple, who are long-standing members of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation, had originally applied for permission to be buried on private land, but this application was declined. They then put forward several arguments in support of the establishment of a Jewish denominational burial ground. These included concerns about desecration of Jewish graves in the Taupo cemetery, the Jewish prohibition on cremation and requirement that a body be buried within one day of death, and the wish to be buried in Taupo near family and home.
This application has identified a lack of provision for the burial of denominational people in the Taupo district and other local authority areas within Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Board areas. It is anticipated that applications for denominational burial grounds and burial in a special place will increase if sufficient provision is not made.
4.84In the next chapter we consider the wider question of how religious and spiritual diversity should be catered for in the provision of places of for burial.