Changes eyed for burials and cremations laws

Last updated 12:00 10/12/2013

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Palmerston North residents with an opinion on how they and their loved ones can be disposed of once they die will be able to have their say directly to the Law Commission.

The commission has been touring the country, asking New Zealanders what they think of proposed changes to laws relating to burials and cremations.

The commission is set to recommend various changes, including letting private companies operate cemeteries, allowing burials on private land, and a new rule requiring crematoriums to have a licensed operator.

Representatives of the commission will be in Palmerston North tomorrow, along with the review's lead commissioner, Wayne Mapp.

Dr Mapp said many New Zealanders did not understand the laws around burials until they had to arrange one.

"Nor are many of us aware that, at the moment in New Zealand, there is no legal requirement for those providing funeral and cremation services to belong to a professional standards body."

The main pieces of legislation controlling burials and cremations was put in place in 1964, and times had changed, he said.

"Our population is made up of over 200 different ethnic groups, our family structures are more complex and we are far more mobile than previous generations.

"All these factors influence our expectations about what happens at the time of death and it is important that the law reflects the principles and values we consider to be most important when grieving and commemorating the dead."

People are already able to do natural burials in Palmerston North after the passing of a bylaw earlier this year allowed shallower graves.

The council also has $83,000 in its annual budget for the establishment of a natural burial area.

The public meeting will be held tomorrow at Hancock Community House, 77 King St, from 12.30pm till 2.30pm.

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