4.1As illustrated in the previous chapter, local authorities in New Zealand have been responsible for providing public cemeteries for well over a century. By the early 20th century, it had become the norm for most burials to take place in council-controlled cemeteries (or for Māori, in urupā). The Burial and Cremation Act 1964 further entrenched the local authority role.
4.3The Act attempts to provide a legal framework that can operate across this mix of public and charitable providers, protecting a wide range of public and private interests. It imposes certain legal obligations on both public and religious providers, but also confers on these providers wide powers allowing them to control and manage most aspects of cemetery provision. However, it reserves for the Crown (through the Minister of Health or his/her delegate) significant control and decision-making authority over matters that were perceived to present a risk to public health, or which could see land used for human burial disturbed or diverted for another purpose.
4.4The object of this chapter is to describe how, in practice, the sector is functioning. We also highlight some of the issues our research and preliminary consultation suggest may need to be addressed in any future reforms.
4.5In the following section we provide an overview of the burial options available to New Zealanders and detail some of the planning, management and operational practices arising under the different frameworks that apply to these different providers. We deal with the following:
4.7The survey sought information on a wide range of issues including the existing and future financial burden on ratepayers for the provision and maintenance of cemeteries, the level of community consultation councils engage in when planning new cemeteries, and the extent to which local authorities are responding to the changing social, cultural and spiritual requirements of their communities for the place and manner of interment. We draw extensively on the information provided to us through this survey during this discussion.
4.9In this chapter we report the findings of this research and highlight the issues raised by providers. As will become evident, these issues range from questions of policy and law through to what might best be described as operational issues relating to the day-to-day management of cemeteries and burial grounds. In the following chapters we analyse these issues in greater depth before putting forward some preliminary proposals for reform in chapter 7.