Natural burial site planned

Unembalmed bodies in soft wood caskets or simple shrouds could be buried in shallow graves in Marlborough when a natural burial ground is opened at Fairhall cemetery.

Graves will be surrounded by native trees and it will look more like a park than a cemetery.

Marlborough District Council reserves and amenities officer Nick Crous said the council had been working on developing a natural burial site at the cemetery for about six weeks.

They were waiting for staff to gauge the flood risk from a nearby creek before finalising where it would be.

The site would be kept separate from the traditional graveyard.

Unembalmed bodies in soft wood caskets or simple shrouds would be placed in graves less than one metre deep to allow for faster decomposition, he said.

The council would plant trees on and around the graves to create a lush, natural landscape and wooden grave plaques would rot into the ground.

"The family of the deceased can walk along a path through the trees and contemplate," Mr Crous said.

"They'll know the remains of their loved ones have been left there but the manmade edifices have disappeared.

"One dear lady asked us to hurry up and get it made because she doesn't know if she'll hold on for long."

The cost of a natural burial would be similar to a traditional burial, he said. All plots had to be single, which used more land, but the expense was offset by lower maintenance costs.

The director of site certification authority Natural Burials, Mark Blackham, plans to inspect the northern end of the cemetery next week.

Mr Blackham said the graves would be shallower than 750 millimetres (75cm) and the bodies provided "remarkably good" nutrients for trees.

"A lot of people choose it because they like the simplicity in a location which turns into a forest."

Mr Blackham started the not-for-profit volunteer company in Wellington after he wanted a natural burial for his child, but found nowhere to do it.

The first cemetery was set up in Makara, Wellington, in 2007 and has had 75 burials so far.

The council can't give a date for the natural burial ground to be available until the right site has been found and Natural Burials, a not for profit organisation, has approved it.

The Marlborough Express