Final rest the natural way
Trees, not headstones, will mark the graves of people buried in a new Kapiti cemetery - and GPS co-ordinates will be the only record of who lies underneath.
Kapiti's first natural burial cemetery officially opened on Saturday with an iwi blessing and speeches at Otaki Cemetery.
Kapiti Coast District Council Deputy Mayor Roger Booth said the opening was an important moment, after a six-year wait for the site.
"Sometimes things take a bit of a journey . . . there are a lot of people interested in this way [of burial]. It's good that we've gone through that journey and particularly good we've reached this point."
The idea for a natural burial site in the district came from the Kapiti Quakers, with members of the committee set up to make the idea a reality at the opening.
Committee member Dr Viola Palmer said despite waiting six years, the original members did not need the cemetery yet.
"And we're delighted to be here and see this now officially opened. And Kapiti folk no longer need to go to Makara [the only other regional natural burial site]; it's right here."
Dr Palmer said with natural burials, the body was not embalmed, but interred in an untreated, biodegradable coffin. "The grave is dug only a metre deep so the body is in the surface layer where all the bacterial and insect activity is happening so that decomposition is much more rapid."
Each grave will have a tree planted on it and will be marked only by an untreated wooden peg that will eventually decay too.
"That piece of wood is not intended to last . . . the council will have a chart with GPS locations on it, so that people can know exactly where their relative is." Dr Palmer said she looked forward to seeing the site being used - but "not too soon".
Fellow Quaker Jocelyn Thornton, who originally suggested the idea to the group, said it was "amazing" to finally see the site opened.
The shallow nature of natural burial graves made finding a site difficult with other sites in the district rejected because of their closeness to homes and high water tables.
The site comprises 127 plots initially; with a further expansion zone of 37 plots.
About 1300sqm of natural bush will be established within the site in the long term.
To find out about the natural cemetery call Kapiti Coast District Council on 296 4700 or contact a funeral director.