9.35As we note in the previous chapter, the only opportunity for taking account of community concerns about the location of crematoria is the resource consent process under the Resource Management Act 1991. The two-stage approvals process completed by the Ministry of Health, in coordination with local health protection officers, does not appear to necessarily examine the effect of the crematorium on those who live, work and play in the area. But one might expect the regulatory framework to take greater account of the unique effect of the presence of a crematorium on the community in which it is located.
9.36We have identified some preliminary options to strengthen public participation about new crematoria. The main option we put forward would be to establish a presumption that all new crematoria would require a resource consent, and that an application must be publicly notified. As secondary options we also consider whether public consultation should become an element of the approvals process, and whether location restrictions should be included in legislation or regulations.
9.37Our preliminary view is that the issues that impact on the local area or community are quintessential resource management issues, and so we prefer the first option at this stage. However we seek feedback on the range of these options identified to improve the level of community consultation.
9.38We also propose that questions about the closure of crematoria should be considered under the Resource Management Act framework.
9.42One option is that the local authority could be required to notify the public of the application and accept public submissions; it would inspect and assess the proposed site from a community interest perspective, and it would assess the balance of the public interest in granting or declining the approval.
9.43If local authorities assumed responsibility for the approvals process, they would have the dual role of handling both approvals and resource consents. Public submissions to each process could be co-ordinated, although each process would remain separate and governed by different statutes. On balance, we note that this could result in duplication of consideration of similar issues if there are two separate processes for approvals and resource consent. Under the Resource Management Act, consent authorities are required to have particular regard to the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values, and consider the balance of environmental effects including social, economic, and cultural effects on people and communities. We consider that this is broad enough to allow for adequate consideration of the relevant public interests. Therefore, we prefer the option of public notification under the Resource Management Act and consideration of the effects of establishing a crematorium under the consents process.
9.47A restriction on siting might be considered desirable if it is thought that it is always inappropriate for crematoria to be located in certain places for cultural or other reasons. Such a provision would amount to a clear statement of public and community interests within the regulatory framework. However, the option of strengthening the opportunity for public consultation under the resource management framework may be sufficient to take account of these interests without imposing specific siting restrictions.
9.48As noted in chapter 8, the Cremation Regulations permit the Minister of Health to direct the closure of a crematorium where an offence has been committed, or where a local authority requests closure and the Minister is satisfied that closure is “expedient in the interests of health or by reason of a change in the character of the locality”.
9.49We propose that closure of crematoria in response to misconduct by the operator could be dealt with under a licensing framework as discussed above. We also suggest that review of consent conditions for air discharge is likely to be the appropriate response to public health issues, and that concern relating to “changing locality” can be more appropriately addressed through the resource management framework.
Q7 Do you think those who operate crematoria should be licensed? Please give reasons.
Q8 Do you think resource consents should be required for all new crematoria and should they be publicly notified under the Resource Management Act?
Q9 Do you think there should be stronger regulatory controls over the operation of crematoria and the handling of human ashes by crematoria?
Q10 Do you think there is a problem with the availability of cremation services in any particular area of New Zealand?
9.50In addition to the questions posed above, we also raise the following questions for consideration by those who wish to address or respond to them.