Mourners not likely to be charged

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/08/2014

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Plans to charge for private events in public spaces have sparked concerns that mourners may have to pay to scatter ashes.

A Wellington City Council committee agreed this week to consult on a policy of charging $100 for people to use areas in public spaces - such as beaches, parks and the town belt - for functions including weddings and corporate picnics.

The aim was to recover costs associated with issuing permits and managing health and safety for those events, an expense currently covered by ratepayers. It is expected to apply to events involving more than 30 people.

Tour groups and fitness boot camps are also facing further restrictions under the proposed changes.

But the Funeral Directors Association is vowing to fight the policy if it is made to include funeral parties scattering ashes.

Chief executive Katrina Shanks said that, at present, the definition of events could be interpreted to include funeral parties, which would be completely insensitive to the traditions and grief involved in such ceremonies.

"Requiring people to pay to book a place on a beach or in a park to gather to remember and to scatter ashes would be offensive and stupid," she said.

"The impact of this on families would be potentially significant. It would affect the many families who wish to discreetly gather to farewell a loved one or deposit their ashes at a favourite place."

The policy had to be clarified or the council "would have a fight on its hands", she said.

Open spaces and parks manager Amber Bill said the intention was not to make mourners pay for permits.

At the moment, large events required permits, but there were rarely any requests for funerals, as the services were usually short and mobile and did not require things such as chairs or marquees to be put up.

If a larger funeral were to be held in a public space, it would require a permit, but the council could include a waiver of the fee for funerals and memorial services in the final policy.

The purpose of the consultation was to highlight these types of problems, she said. "If that is unclear, then that is something we can address."

Environment committee chairwoman Iona Pannett said councillors were ambivalent about the proposal and were waiting to hear all community feedback on it before making a decision.

However, she would not expect ashes-scattering services to be covered as a "private function".

"We're really sensitive about this issue when you're dealing with death."

But whether people required permits or not, there were still rules regarding where ashes could and could not be scattered in Wellington, she said.

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The only approved site for scattering is in Willowbank Park, Tawa. All other sites require a formal request, which will be considered by the council case by case.

- The Dominion Post

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