Moving to an eco-graveyard

Council bylaws need to change so bodies can be buried less than a metre deep if Marlborough is to have an eco-graveyard.

Marlborough District Council reserves and amenities officer Nick Crous will suggest to the council assets and services committee meeting next week that they amend the cemeteries bylaw to allow for shallow graves.

Council staff have been working since July on establishing a natural burial ground at the northern end of Fairhall Cemetery.

Under that proposal, bodies would not be embalmed and would be put in softwood coffins or simple shrouds before being buried in shallow graves, about 60 centimetres deep, which speeds up decomposition.

Mr Crous said changing the council's cemeteries bylaw should be a simple formality.

The bylaw, brought in under the the Burial and Cremation Act 1964, states the minimum depth of cover for any coffin is one metre. Section 16 of the act gives councils the power to create bylaws to manage cemeteries, including the depths of graves.

The colder soil temperature in deeper graves slowed the decomposition process.

The natural burial ground has been planned surrounded by native trees and to look more like a park than a cemetery. Gravemarkers would be made of wood so they can rot into the ground.

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

Site certificate authority Natural Burials director Mark Blackham had inspected the northern end of Fairhall Cemetery in August.

He approved of the area, the aesthetics and soil, and was likely to certify it as a natural burial ground once the council had finalised the legal process.

A change to the bylaw will need to be advertised before the amendment becomes official.

The Marlborough Express